And just like that, the Kafka novel ends.
Pablo Airaldi, the subject of this week’s cover profile, was scheduled for another deportation hearing this morning at Varick Street Immigration Court. He would’ve been escorted before the judge in shackles, a gaggle of his friends would’ve been there. But yesterday, on the same day the Bed-Stuy resident appeared on the cover of this newspaper, the 28-year-old called pals saying that he’d received word that he’d be getting out of detention in the next 24 hours.
A legal permanent resident detained mid-October by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Airaldi spent (Christmas and his birthday) in New Jersey’s Hudson County Correctional Facility, on account of a theft charge that he paid for years ago. Born in Uruguay and brought to America as a child, he got caught transporting stolen car parts at 18, pled guilty to a felony in order to avoid jail time, and received a suspended sentence of 545 days. According to current immigration law, criminal sentences of a year or more (suspended or not) make their offenders eligible for deportation. And so unexpectedly during a routine court date in October, ICE officials took Pablo Airaldi into custody.
But thanks to the fundraising efforts of friends/drinking buddies/kind strangers (detailed at length here), Airaldi recently retained New York-based immigration lawyer Stan Weber. And although processes had been in motion to get his original 545-day ruling amended to less than a year by the Indiana judge who sentenced him (which would no longer make him eligible for deportation, and the federal government would have no justification for keeping him locked up), the paperwork was apparently accelerated yesterday–and Pablo got out last night.
Soonafter, friends on Facebook began spreading the news: “Pablo’s Free!!!”
Updated: Pablo really is free. He got back to his Bed-Stuy house, the Chicken Hut, around 9:30 last night. Friends flocked over immediately, so he phoned this morning, with the obligatory post-celebratory headache.
“Being in the real world again feels like waking up,” he reports. “It’s like getting out of the dream you’ve just had–when your eyes are open, before your first cup of coffee.” It was at little startling, he admits, to leave prison, still be processing the world, and see his face on the Village Voice cover, on every street corner, before he’d even gotten home. “I thought I’d be ready, but it was surreal. I was literally coming home with trashbag in hand when I saw myself.” He laughs. “It’s like I’m the bike version of Kim Kardashian or something!”
Today, the amended sentence for Pablo’s original conviction stands at 364 days. And so now, here’s what Pablo Daniel Airaldi will look like on paper:
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 6, 2011