NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH)– A Meriden father of three set to be deported Tuesday sought refuge in a church instead. It’s the second time in just three weeks an undocumented immigrant chose sanctuary over deportation.
That’s where Marco Reyes is living, at least for now. He was granted sanctuary in this church on the New Haven green yesterday. It may not be home, but as his family says, at least they can still visit him.
His family was part of a rally and press conference on the church steps Tuesday afternoon. Supporters from the community and politicians like Senator Richard Blumenthal and New Haven Mayor Toni Harp joining in.
Reyes, his wife and two of their children came to the U.S. 20 years ago without proper documentation. They’ve been living in Meriden for years, with Reyes working construction and paying taxes. For years he had regular check-ins with immigration officials who always let him stay, until this year. He was ordered back to Ecuador Tuesday.
Instead, he came here to the First and Summerfield United Methodist church. His 12-year-old daughter was born here and is a U.S. citizen.
“My dad did have to make this decision early in the morning and he took the decision considering us, you know. We’re trying to stick together because that’s what we’ve been sticking together since day one,” said Evelyn Reyes, Daughter.
This is now day one of living in the church. How long will he be here? Another undocumented immigrant, Nury Chavarria of Norwalk, did this same thing in a different church three weeks ago. It was less than a week until a federal court granted her a stay of deportation until immigration officials could have a hearing to determine if she can stay.
Reyes has lawyers looking for the same thing. He is looking for asylum because his life would be in danger back in his native Ecuador. Complicating things is the fact his wife may be facing deportation as well.
Sanctuary is a strange thing. There is no legal definition, so there is nothing keeping ICE agents from going into this church and arresting Reyes. Nothing except the fact that it’s very bad PR, which is why the government does not usually do it.