Meriden father set to be deported seeks refuge at New Haven church

MERIDEN, Conn. (WTNH)–  A Meriden father of three is seeking refuge in a New Haven church after he was set to be deported back to Ecuador on Tuesday.

Marco Reyes was ordered back to his native Ecuador but now officials with an immigration group tell News 8 that he is seeking sanctuary at the First and Summerfield United Methodist Church in New Haven.

“Instead of leaving behind his family – his wife and his three children, including a 12 year-old American citizen – Reyes Alvarez walked into the First and Summerfield United Methodist Church surrounded by family, religious leaders and community members who have committed to support him and his family in this courageous act,” Unidad Latina en Accion (ULA), a grassroots organization based in New Haven, said a release.

Related: Multiple Connecticut families awaiting decisions on loved ones’ potential deportations.

Reyes came to the U.S. 20 years ago without proper documents. He has worked and raised three children, and paid taxes, and for the last several years he’s been checking in with immigration officials regularly. They let him stay every time, until now.

Jesus Morales Sanchez from Unidad Latina en Accion (ULA) and the Connecticut Immigrant Rights Alliance (CIRA) spent time with the family at the church.

“I know that they were very scared last night; however, today the mood is more hopeful,” he said. “They were praying together. It’s been a very touching scene and also heartbreaking because we have all these children.”

“It’s hard for him. It’s hard for all of us,” said Reyes’s 23-year-old daughter Evelyn.

Related: With hours until deportation, Meriden man’s neighbors weigh in

We have heard this story before, most recently from a woman named Nury Chavarria. She spent years living and working in Norwalk, until she was also told by ICE that she had to go back to her native Guatemala.

“Instead of targeting or prioritizing undocumented individuals who are dangerous and have criminal records, they have engaged in effect in a roundup of all undocumented individuals, even people who have worked here for decades,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, (D) Connecticut.

Related: Meriden family hopes appeal will save father from deportation

In the case of Nury Chavarria, she got sanctuary in a New Haven Church instead of deporting. A few days later, a federal court in Hartford granted her a stay of deportation. That could happen with Reyes Tuesday. His lawyer has filed for a stay of deportation.

Related: Norwalk mother fighting deportation grateful for supporters after granted stay

While a church does not have legal grounds to offer sanctuary, federal agents are unlikely to burst into a church and start making arrests.

Reyes’s wife also has a removal order, but she doesn’t have a clear date when she has to be out of the country.

Blumenthal released a statement regarding the deportation order for Reyes and his decision to seek sanctuary:

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. 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. 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.”

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro released the following statement regarding Marco Reyes:

The planned deportation of Marco Reyes is yet another example of the Trump administration’s heartless immigration policy. Mr. Reyes, who was ordered to be deported today, has been granted a Stay of Removal in the past. Mr. Reyes is a productive member of society: he works hard, pays his taxes, and takes care of his wife and three children. Mr. Reyes has a credible threat to his life if he is deported to Ecuador. Mr. Reyes’ brother-in-law was murdered, and his killer has threatened the lives of Mr. Reyes’ family members. That is why I am working with Mr. Reyes’ attorneys and my colleagues to pursue a new Stay of Removal.

The Trump administration has lost sight of what makes America great: the opportunity to work hard, play by the rules, and provide for your family. The stories of Marco Reyes, Nury Chavvaria, Luis Barrios and so many others are the reason why Congress needs to take up comprehensive immigration reform that includes a path to legal citizenship. Our nation’s immigration enforcement agents should be focused on deporting dangerous criminals, not breaking up families.

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