Monday a Meriden father is expected to be deported back to Ecuador, leaving behind his family and the country he’s called home for the last 20 years.
Marco Reyes reported to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in July as scheduled and the father of three was told he would have to leave behind the life he built in Meriden and head back to Ecuador by Aug. 8.
Last Thursday, family and friends supporting Reyes gathered outside the Ribicoff federal building in Hartford, which houses the local ICE office.
Reyes has been living in Connecticut with his wife and children since 1997, supporters said, and the problem came in 2007 when the family was vacationing and accidentally crossed into Canada.
Federal immigration authorities apprehended Marco Reyes as they tried to return.
Supporters said Marco has been checking in with ICE since 2016.
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.
"We don't want my dad to leave. My dad means the world to me," Marco's daughter, Evelyn Reyes, said.
"We are in the middle of a crisis, a crisis not just for this family here, but for thousands of families in Connecticut and across the country who are being torn apart and it makes no sense," Reyes' attorney, Erin O'Neil-Baker, said. "This is a family that has paid taxes every year since 2002, and if they are returned to their country, they are in danger."
O'Neil-Baker said Reyes' brother-in-law was murdered in Ecuador and the perpetrator has targeted other family members.
"I will do whatever I can. I will work as long, as hard, as possible because there are real human consequences here," U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, CT-D, said. "Marco faces real danger, maybe even death."
Senator Blumenthal flew in from DC to attend the rally and said the administration should focus on deporting those with dangerous criminal records, not people like Reyes.
He said he's written to Homeland Security, requesting that they review the current policy.
In response to critics who have said Reyes and others had plenty of time to find a path to citizenship, Blumenthal said that people like Reyes are often misled or misrepresented by attorneys who might have meant well but dropped the ball.
"These folks made no effort to hide. They didn't run. They weren't concealing themselves. They were right there for ICE to see, and many reported to ICE routinely every year. And they thought the status quo would be fine," Blumenthal said.
Reyes' attorney said they've filed a motion to reopen his old removal order to hopefully have a hearing on the case. If that takes place, they then hope to work on getting him permanent residency.
Supporters said the father of three is a valuable member of the community who is also the sole provider for his family.
"I really need my dad with me here because I can't do anything without him," Marco's daughter, 12-year-old Adriana Reyes, said.
"We hope that the immigration department gives my husband another chance to stay in this country. He's not any criminal. He's always been a good person, a good father," Marco's wife, Fanny Torres Reyes, said.
As time runs out, his family is hoping something can be done to keep him here and keep their family together.
"Imagine if that was your family and you lost your dad because their dad could die any day in Ecuador," Marco's nephew, 9-year-old Oscar Villacres, said.
Officials from ICE said that if Reyes doesn’t comply with the removal order, he'll be considered a fugitive and arrested when encountered.