For the first time in over three months, undocumented Meriden resident Marco Reyes set foot outside the First and Summerfield United Methodist Church in New Haven after being granted a temporary reprieve from deportation while his case remains pending with the Board of Immigration Appeals.
“This step is a wonderful Thanksgiving gift to his family,” said U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal. “It is a recognition of American values.”
Reyes took up sanctuary at the church Aug. 8 to avoid deportation to Ecuador. He entered the country illegally in 1997 and received annual stays of removal until this summer, when policy changes under the administration of President Donald Trump stopped automatic renewals. Immigration & Customs Enforcement began to enforce deportation orders, giving many like Reyes just weeks to leave the country. Reyes supports a wife and children in Meriden.
His family believes Reyes would be in danger if he were to return to Ecuador as the convicted murderer of Reyes’ brother-in-law was released from prison.
Alok Bhatt, community defense coordinator for the Connecticut Immigrant Rights Alliance, described the emotional moment when the Reyes family learned he could go home for the holiday Wednesday morning.
“There were just tears of joy instantly,” Bhatt said. “It was just elation all around in the room.”
The reprieve was granted by the Department of Homeland Security, Bhatt said, but could not provide further legal details.
Reyes’ lawyer Attorney Erin O’Neil-Baker was not immediately available for comment.
It is unclear how long the reprieve will last and if Reyes will be forced to return to the church before his case is heard in court, Blumenthal said.
Immigration & Customs Enforcement Public Affairs Officer Shawn Neudauer said ICE will not detain Reyes for the time being.
“ICE is aware that an appeals court has granted a review of this matter,” Neudauer said. “At this time, ICE is deferring to the appellate court and temporarily staying the removal.”
City Councilor Miguel Castro, who has been an advocate for Reyes since his case became public, was glad to hear Reyes will be reunited with his family for the holiday. However, the fight is far from over, Castro said.
“It is a tremendous accomplishment to everyone who has been a part of this effort,” Castro said. “Not only will we bring him back home but we will continue to stand for him and other families in the same situation.”