Meriden Dad Taking Sanctuary in Church to Go Home for Thanksgiving

A Meriden father of three who has sought sanctuary in a New Haven church for nearly four months to avoid deportation to Ecuador will be able to go home for Thanksgiving, according to his attorney and Sen. Richard Blumenthal. They said Marco Reyes has a temporary reprieve from deportation.

Reyes, who has lived in the United States for 20 years, reported to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in July as scheduled and was told he would have to leave behind the life he built in Meriden and head back to Ecuador by Aug. 8.

Instead of leaving the country, Reyes defied a deportation order and sought sanctuary at the First and Summerfield United Methodist Church across from the New Haven Green, where he spent had been staying since August and built a lectern there for the pastor.

Blumenthal went to the church on Wednesday morning to meet with advocates and deliver pies to Reyes, who expected to spend Thanksgiving there, in sanctuary.

On Wednesday afternoon, Reyes' attorney, Erin O’Neil-Baker, said her client will be able to go home for a temporary, undefined amount of time while he has a pending petition for review and a motion to reopen with the board of immigration appeals.

“(W)hile those are pending, DHS (the U.S. Department of Homeland Security) is not enforcing his deportation, so there is no timeline at all. While those motions and petitions are pending, DHS has decided not to enforce his removal,” O’Neil-Baker said.

Blumenthal said he hopes the reprieve will become a permanent stay for Reyes, who deserves a full, fair hearing. 

Reyes has lived in Connecticut with his wife and children since 1997 and the problem arose 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.

ICE released a statement in October about Reyes’ case

“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,” the statement says.

According to ICE, Reyes in 2010 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.

The statement goes on to say:

“After he exhausted those options, ICE notified him that the agency planned to carry out his removal order. In late 2017, 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.”

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