Airaldi's shop, Greenpoint Bikes Photo by Jesse Sposato
What’s Next for Pablo Airaldi?Nov 27, 2010
Community rallies against the deportation of a Greenpoint business owner
Pablo Airaldi, founder and owner of fledgling bike shop Greenpoint Bikes, is now under the threat of deportation after a string of unusual events, two years of detainments and continuous court dates and ten years of trying to move past a mistake he made when he was eighteen years old. Now, the Greenpoint community is rallying around him to raise money for legal fees, provide a comprehensive support system and do everything in their power to make sure he stays in the United States, and in the neighborhood.
Airaldi was born in Uruguay and moved to the United States when he was seven years old, along with his mother, who married a U.S. citizen. Since then, Airaldi has lived as a legal resident here. In 2002, Airaldi pleaded guilty to a crime upon the counsel of a public defender without understanding the possible ramifications to his status as a legal resident. Upon pleading guilty, he was issued two years probation and a 545-day jail sentence, which was subsequently suspended indefinitely. Since 2002, Airaldi has had a clean record, lived in several cities throughout the United States and opened his own business on Manhattan Avenue. However, in 2008, when Airaldi tried to travel to Canada with friends, he was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and told that his status as a legal resident was in jeopardy. He was incarcerated, but released on a $3,000 bond. Since then, he has had mandatory court dates every three months, and is now being held in a detention center in New Jersey awaiting a trial that may or may not result in his deportation. If deported, Airaldi—who is considered under immigration law to be an aggravated felon, making him vulnerable to deportation—will be sent back to Uruguay, a place where he has no friends or family, and does not speak the language.
“Every Detainee is in here because of some infraction to current immigration laws which have seen fantastic revisions over the past decade. These infractions make them deportable for one reason or another,” Airaldi wrote in a letter dated November 2, 2010. “I was originally brought over to this country in 1988 and have been a legal permanent resident since 1991. By 15 I was on my own, by 17 I was homeless. I did whatever I could to get by and caught a theft charge one month after my 18th birthday. Since I was too poor to afford a snickers bar, let alone a criminal attorney, I was appointed a public defender who forcefully advised me to plead guilty, telling me nothing of consequences that it might bring to my immigration status.”
Victoria Tychan, Becky Wise and Kathleen Hennerty have spearheaded efforts to aid Airaldi as he tries to navigate the waters of immigration law: he is choosing to represent himself in court.
“I’ve done a lot of research, trying to understand how the immigration process works. I know that [Airaldi] wholeheartedly cares for the community of Greenpoint. I know that he was living for his job at the bike shop—he would constantly tell me about people he’d helped in some way and how good it made him feel to contribute,” said Tychan, who has been involved in Airaldi’s case since 2008. “He loves bikes and he loves people, and he was really proud of where he was in his life. He had a lot of goals for trying to reach out to people who couldn’t afford bikes who needed them. He would barter and trade with people to try and help them out.”
Tychan, Wise and Hennerty organized a fundraising event last Friday night in honor of Airaldi, in an effort to raise money for impending legal fees, and to increase community awareness about Airaldi’s situation.
“He’s such a giver to the communities he belongs to, he goes above and beyond,” said Hennerty, who has lived in Greenpoint for the past ten years. “He’s always active, always trying to better the neighborhood. He’s someone who needs to be here.”
Sam Paul, another Greenpoint resident and longtime friend of Airaldi’s, echoed Hennerty’s sentiment, explaining that “Pablo is a really supportive and community-oriented person.”
Airaldi’s next hearing will be held on Monday, November 29th at Varick Immigration Court at 201 Varick St. Room 1140 at 9am.