In ‘frightening’ display, ICE agents arrest immigrant worker on Main Street | –

Great Barrington — The long arm of the federal government found its way into downtown Great Barrington Tuesday morning as officials from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) took a local worker into custody in front of the popular Fuel Coffee Shop on Main Street.

Will Curletti, owner of Fuel Coffee Shop in Great Barrington. Photo: Nicholas Dayal

The incident happened some time between 7:30 and 8:30 a.m. when there were only eight or nine people in the shop, said Will Curletti, who owns the popular coffee shop with his wife, Robin.

Curletti said he saw two officers slap handcuffs on “Alex,” who works as a chef at Patisserie Lenox. Curletti surmised that Alex was walking south on Main Street to work when the agents stopped him.

Curlietti saw a pair of black SUVs and two officers—one plain-clothed woman and a man wearing an ICE vest. The man handcuffed Alex, put him into a SUV and took him away. The event was over within a couple of minutes.

“It was the first time I’ve seen ICE in Berkshire County,” Curletti said. “And I’ve seen all sorts of weird stuff—people running from the cops, you name it.”

Mickey Friedman, a regular at Fuel and a writer who is an Edge contributor, was sitting in the back of the coffee shop and was alerted to the situation by Curletti.

Main Street can be seen in the reflection of the streetside window of Patisserie Lenox. Photo: Terry Cowgill

“By time I got to the front, they were basically putting him into the back of the car,” Friedman said. “It was kind of frightening.”

Friedman said he saw three vehicles, including a sedan. One vehicle had Connecticut plates and another had New York plates.

At Patisserie Lenox, owner Jean Yves Bougouin said that, when Alex did not show up for to work, he sent an employee to his apartment to check on him and whoever was in his apartment “said he was arrested by immigration.”

Bougouin explained that Alex had another legal problem unrelated to immigration and he thought initially that his detention was related to that.

Yulia and Jean Yves Bougouin of Patisserie Lenox in Great Barrington. Photo courtesy Patisserie Lenox

Bougouin did not know Alex’s last name but said his wife, Yulia, did. She was not available, however, when The Edge visited the cafe. When he was hired about two years ago, Alex did present a Social Security card, so his ability to work in the U.S. appeared to be fine, Bougouin explained.

Bougouin declined to specify Alex’s other unrelated legal problems. Bougouin guesses that “the other problem is probably related to [the ICE] arrest” and the aggrieved party might have reported Alex to federal authorities. Alex is of Greek ancestry but was living in Albania before he came to the U.S. 

Bougouin said he foresaw Alex’s legal problems and anticipated they might cause him to miss work or force him to resign, so, two months ago, Bougouin hired an extra chef.

“We were prepared,” Bougouin said. “It was a shame. He was a good guy and a good chef.”

Police Chief William Walsh explaining his department’s immigration policies at Great Barrington’s 2017 annual town meeting. Photo: David Scribner

Asked if Great Barrington authorities had assisted ICE in any way, police Chief Bill Walsh provided The Edge with a log entry of the incident. The federal Department of Homeland Security had requested assistance from the Great Barrington Police Department in the form of a uniformed officer to escort them to Alex’s residence to pick up his medication.

“It was kind of disturbing for everyone in here,” Curletti said of the customers and employees in his coffee shop. “You know, the government is shut down and we’re still pulling people off the street. You hate to see that happen.”

Shortly after the election of Donald Trump, there were rumors on social media of immigration roundups in Berkshire County. When The Edge attempted to contact ICE for confirmation of this recent incident, we received the following message from spokesperson Leticia Zamarripa:

“All ICE public affairs officers are out of the office for the duration of the government shutdown. We are unable to respond to media queries during this period because we are prohibited by law from working. If you still require a response, please resubmit your query upon the government re-opening.”

Editor’s note: This article has been revised to reflect the correct name of Jean Yves Bougouin’s wife.

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