Gov. Dannel P. Malloy rallied Thursday with other public officials, immigrant advocates and demonstrators in support of Nelson Omar Rosales Santos, a Honduran man whose deportation was stayed for six months while he awaits a kidney transplant.
The call for action came as dozens of people stood with Santos, who lives in the governor’s hometown of Stamford and has lived in the U.S. for nearly 30 years, outside the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices in Hartford. Some held signs that read “Where is Our Humanity” and “Keep Families Together.”
Protesters cheered as advocates announced ICE officials granted a Santos a last-minute six-month stay in his deportation. But they said he needs more time, as doctors treating Santos won’t perform the surgery unless guaranteed he will remain in the U.S. for at least a year — leaving him the necessary time for monitoring and follow-up treatment.
“This is one of those cases where what is being done is a travesty. It violates everything we know about who we are and what we are,” Malloy told the crowd. “We don’t send people away to death. That’s not who we are as Americans.”
Santos, who is married to an American citizen and has three U.S-born children, is in renal failure and is scheduled for a kidney transplant from a personal donor this summer. He entered the U.S. illegally in 1989 and was originally going to be deported to Honduras on Monday.
ICE spokesman John Mohan said the six-month reprieve came after officials reviewed the facts in Santos’ case and his request for a stay of removal.
“A stay of removal is among the discretionary actions that a Field Office Director for ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations may exercise on a case by case basis,” Mohan said in an email.
Glenn Formica, Santos’ attorney, said he should be granted automatic stay because his deportation order came before President Bill Clinton signed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) into law in 1996. That law fast tracked deportation, and expanded the grounds for deporting immigrants.
“Then there’s a humanitarian issue … they should allow him to stay minimum of a year so he can get a life-saving kidney transplant,” Formica said. “What we’re talking about is a guy getting dialysis through private insurance. He is eligible for a transplant through a private arrangement and can live a normal life and be healthy if he is allowed to stay just a year. If he goes back to Honduras, he goes back to his death.”
In the six-month period ending April 1, the U.S. deported 1,140 people from New England, according to ICE.
Formica said granting Santos automatic stay of deportation would mean he could remain in the country while the Board of Immigration Appeals hears his case and he receives dialysis and surgery.
Santos thanked the advocates and the crowd for their support as he wiped tears from his eyes.
“I’m so happy,” he said, “because I want to be here with my family and my wife.”