A Meriden father who was supposed to be deported today to Ecuador after spending decades in the United States has sought sanctuary in a New Haven church instead of leaving the country.
Marco Reyes, a father of three and the family's sole provider, learned in July when he reported to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as scheduled, that he would have to leave behind the life he built in Meriden and head back to Ecuador by today.
Reyes is in the church with his family members.
Reyes has been living in Connecticut with his wife and children since 1997 and the problem came in 2007 when the family was vacationing and accidentally crossed into Canada.
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Federal immigration authorities apprehended Reyes as they tried to return and supporters said he has been checking in with ICE since 2016.
“There must be fair and effective enforcement of all laws in accordance with due process, which I firmly believe as a former federal prosecutor and state Attorney General. But strong law enforcement must also reflect humane and compassionate values, including the unbreakable bond between a parent and child,” U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said in a statement.
“I am outraged and heartbroken by the arbitrary and callous decision to deport Marco Reyes. His plight today is a symptom of Trump’s cruel and inhumane immigration policies that lack all sense of reason and rationality. Marco is a hardworking father and husband who has called Connecticut home for two decades without any criminal wrongdoing," Blumthenthal said in a statement. "He faces serious threats to his life should he be deported. I will continue to explore all opportunities to assist Marco and his family. I remain committed to comprehensive immigration reform to provide lasting and significant change to this badly broken system.”
Shawn Neudauer, ICE spokesman for the New England area, said a federal immigration judge issued a final order of removal for Reyes in 2009 and Reyes was granted a stay of removal to allow him to pursue legal options in his immigration proceedings but has since exhausted his legal options.
Supporters said the father of three is a valuable member of the community who is also the sole provider for his family.
Officials from First and Summerfield United Methodist Church in New Haven said Reyes took sanctuary there before 9 a.m. Tuesday.
Neudauer said that Reyes is now considered an ICE fugitive for refusing to comply with the removal order and will arrested when encountered. Is ICE's policy not to apprehend people in sensitive locations like churches unless there are pressing circumstances.
"A federal immigration judge’s orders cannot be ignored. ICE and the courts can delay acting on an order to ensure all applicable legal processes and possible benefits are followed and/or reviewed, which occurred in this case. However, after these legal options are exhausted, ICE must still carry out the judge’s order in the absence of any other mitigating factors," Neudauer said in a statement.
Read the full statement from ICE at the bottom of this article.
Reyes was supposed to take a one-way trip to Ecuador this morning but sought sanctuary in the church instead of leaving his family behind.
A news conference is planned for this evening.
Reyes is not the first Connecticut resident to seek refuge in a church while fighting deportation.
Nuvy Chavarria, a mother of four, who left Guatemala in 1993, when she was 19, sought sanctuary at Iglesia De Dios Pentecostal Church in New Haven, and has since been granted a stay that will allow her to remain in the country.
Full statement from ICE:
“On Aug. 8, Marco Reyes-Alvarez, a citizen of Ecuador illegally present in the United States, was scheduled to meet ICE deportation officers with the agency’s Hartford, Connecticut office, to verify his compliance with a removal order issued by a federal immigration judge in 2009. Reyes failed to appear and has since taken refuge in a church in New Haven, indicating he does not intend to comply with the court’s order. Reyes is now considered an ICE fugitive and will be arrested and detained when encountered. At which time, ICE will remove him from the United States.
In 2010, Reyes previously filed petitions to reopen his case and requested a stay of removal from the Board of Immigration Appeals and the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Both were ultimately denied. He requested another stay of removal from ICE in 2016, which was granted while he pursued additional legal options in his case. After he exhausted those options, ICE notified him that the agency planned to carry out his removal order. Last week, he again petitioned the Board of Immigration Appeals to reopen his case and requested another stay of removal. The Board of Immigration Appeals denied the stay of removal, allowing ICE to proceed with the case.
On May 5, 2017, ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan notified the chairmen of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees that ICE will no longer automatically grant a stay of removal for an alien based on private immigration bills introduced by Members of Congress — unless the Chair of the full Committee or Subcommittee makes a written request to ICE to stay the alien’s removal. This policy became effective May 5, 2017. Those aliens for whom an investigative report had been requested prior to May 5, 2017, will be processed under the old policy and granted an automatic stay of removal until March 15, 2019. Formal correspondence documenting this update is forthcoming. ICE is currently working to fulfill all requests for investigative reports received in conjunction with private immigration relief legislation introduced in the 115th Congress. This “grandfathering” of the private immigration bill policy affects 30 aliens whose private bills were processed before May 5.
A federal immigration judge’s orders cannot be ignored. ICE and the courts can delay acting on an order to ensure all applicable legal processes and possible benefits are followed and/or reviewed, which occurred in this case. However, after these legal options are exhausted, ICE must still carry out the judge’s order in the absence of any other mitigating factors.”
- Shawn Neudauer, ICE spokesman, New England