Two Simsbury business owners afraid of being ripped away from their two sons are pleading to stay in the country.
ZheLong "Tony" Huang and Xiangjin "Kris" Li have been in the United States for nearly 20 years and have run Deco Nails in Simsbury since 2006.
Lawmakers and the community rallied in Simsbury on Sunday to keep Huang and Li, who are both scheduled to be deported on Feb. 16, in the country.
"I don't want to leave this country. I think this is my country. I don't want to leave here. Please help me don't (sic) leave this country," Li said with tears streaming from her face.
Their friend Laurie Kane said the couple has two children who are 15 and 5 years old. Both were born in the United States and do not speak a Chinese language.
"They took the risk because they wanted to provide a better life for their families," Kane said. The couple had work permits, she added.
In an email to NBC Connecticut, attorney Erin O’Neil-Baker said the couple will need to take their children with them to China or they’ll be placed in state custody.
Huang and Li, both Chinese citizens, have old removal orders from more than five years ago, according to O’Neil-Baker. They’ve been granted stays, but now their old removal order is being enforced.
Both Huang and Li filed for permanent residency more than five years ago, O’Neil-Baker said, but those requests were denied by an immigration judge.
"I get very emotional because I can't imagine having to leave my daughter," Mary Claire Whalen, a Simsbury resident, said at the rally.
Huang and Li are filing various motions with the Board of Immigration Appeals to reopen their old removal order, according to O’Neil-Baker.
"Give me time to give my children a beautiful life. Don't split my family," Li said in tears.
A spokesperson for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement released a statement on the case on Monday:
"Both Mr. Huang and Ms. Li have previously been ordered by immigration judges to be removed from the U.S. to China, their country of origin. Both have filed unsuccessful appeals to these orders and must depart the country. ICE does not, for operational and security purposes, detail the specific dates or processes by which individual detainees are removed from the United States to their country of origin," the statement read.