Rome farmer says ICE agents stormed property, detained employee

ROME, N.Y.--A farm worker was detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers Wednesday morning on John Collins' property in Rome.

Posted: Apr 19, 2018 12:16 AM
Updated: Apr 19, 2018 4:37 PM

ROME, N.Y.--A Rome farmer claims one of his employees was detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers  Wednesday morning.

Marcial de Leon Aguilar was working in the milk barn when ICE agents arrived on the farm. Aguilar lives on John Collins' farm on Thomas Road with his pregnant wife and four children. 

Aguilar's wife, Virginia Morales, and his two younger children were not on the premises when he was detained. His two older children were waiting for the bus at the time of Aguilar's arrest.

Collins claims he was helping Aguilar earn legal documentation. Collins said Aguilar had an I-9 form and had portions of his salary withheld for taxes.

"Can they do this?" Collins said. "Can they come into the barn and actually get my employee out, who is working with migration? We're working with Albany and she's working on getting asylum."

Collins said Morales was caught in the United States without documentation and now wears an ankle monitor. 

"We're working with immigration, as far as being on the table with everything, I just couldn't understand how this was happening to me," Collins said. 

Collins said he repeatedly asked the officers, who identified themselves as ICE agents, for a reason as to why Aguilar was being detained.

"Why are you arresting him? What's going on?" Collins said. "They said he had three offenses against him. I know Marcial, I knew it was a bull[expletive] story."

While Collins admitted he doesn't have a verified record of Aguilar's past, he overheard the ICE officers detaining his worker. Collins claimed they lied about Aguilar resisting arrest.

"Marcial's not saying anything, he's compliant with everything," Collins said. 

Aguilar was taken away by the officers. Collins claims he too was handcuffed, but released back onto his own property during the ordeal. He doesn't know how long officers will hold his employee.

"They don't tell you anything, he very easily could go to Batavia," Collins said.

Morales, who is originally from Guatemala, said she is concerned for her growing family.

"Who's going to help support me and my children if my husband's not here?" Morales said through an English translator. "We came here for a better future for our children. There's nothing really back at Guatemala for us."

"Loving, caring, a great family aspect," Collins said. "You know, they're humans. You can't treat them like animals. Everyone calls it cheap labor, Marcial is my highest-paid employee."

During the arrest, Collins took a cell phone video of the detainment.

When NEWSChannel 2 reached out to ICE officers for a response via email, the responding official asked to see a copy of the video. 

The same official also claimed the agency would provide more information about the incident on Thursday.

(EDIT: A prior version of this article stated the incident occurred Monday instead of Wednesday.)

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