MERIDEN — A judge’s decision to grant a Norwalk mother of four children an emergency stay of deportation after she took refuge in a church may help others facing similar U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement decisions, an immigration attorney said Thursday.
“It certainly gives us hope,” attorney Michael Boyle, of North Haven, said of the ruling on Nury Chavarria. “For now, it’s the best hope we can have in the Trump administration.”
Boyle represents a Meriden couple who face renewal decisions on Tuesday. The couple have two children, one in a city high school and the other at Central Connecticut State University. Both parents have been granted permits to work in the U.S.
Boyle hopes the spotlight placed on Chavarria’s case will help convince ICE officials to stop deporting law-abiding, taxpaying citizens forced to leave children behind.
“Where there is no attention, it goes on,” Boyle said. “The best chance to have some positive action is when there is a lot of attention.”
But the Chavarria decision came too late for Rosa Chabla, of Meriden, who was removed to Ecuador with her 18-year-old son on Friday. As with Chavarria, Chabla reported regularly to ICE, had a work permit and children to care for at home. She was also a model employee at her job at the Four Points by Sheraton in Meriden, according to the hotel’s general manager.
Prior to deportation, Chabla had discussed with family members the idea of going to a church, but was afraid of being seen as uncooperative. The family also feared ICE would come for the rest of the family, a brother-in-law said Wednesday.
Chabla’s 24-year-old daughter, Maribel, the mother of a 3-year-old, met with ICE officials Thursday, and according to her father can remain in the country for the time being.
“She’s OK,” Cesar Quilligana said.
An ICE spokesman in Hartford said Thursday that ICE prioritizes the arrest and removal of national security and public safety threats, however, no class or category of alien in the United States is exempt from arrest or removal.
Immigration to the U.S. on a temporary or permanent basis is limited to three different routes: employment, family reunification or humanitarian protection. Each of these processes is highly regulated and subject to limitations and eligibility requirements.
Before 1996, illegal immigrants could get a green card and path to citizenship if they were sponsored by a family member. That changed when Congress passed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996.
Among other provisions, the act mandated that those who are unlawfully present in the country for more than a year are barred from being admitted any legal status for 10 years. Those under 18 or who have a bona fide asylum or family unity application pending are exempt.
Battered women and children are also exempt, and there is a waiver available for the spouses or children of U.S. citizens and permanent U.S. residents who need care from an adult child or relative living outside the country. Being a victim of gang violence does not qualify for political asylum.
Currently, the only way to get a green card and path to citizenship is to marry a U.S. citizen or have an adult child who is a U.S. citizen, and the lines can be long.
“Unauthorized immigrants who want to regularize their status in this country cannot just get in line,” according to information from the American Immigration Council. “There are lines, but a large number of aspiring immigrants are not eligible to be in any of them. Even if a prospective immigrant does meet the formal requirements to immigrate, the wait can be very long if she or he is applying from countries that are currently oversubscribed.”
In the first 100 days since President Donald Trump signed executive orders regarding immigration enforcement priorities, ICE has arrested more than 41,000 individuals who are either known or suspected of being in the country illegally, according to the agency’s website, representing a 37.6 percent increase over the same period in 2016.
Between Jan. 22 and April 29, ICE enforcement and removal officers administratively arrested 41,318 individuals on civil immigration charges. Enforcement and removal officers arrested 30,028 in 2016.
“These statistics reflect President Trump’s commitment to enforce our immigration laws fairly and across the board,” ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan wrote on the agency’s website. “ICE agents and officers have been given clear direction to focus on threats to public safety and national security, which has resulted in a substantial increase in the arrest of convicted criminal aliens. However, when we encounter others who are in the country unlawfully, we will execute our sworn duty and enforce the law.”
According to ICE, nearly 75 percent of those arrested between Jan. 22 and April 29 are convicted criminals, with offenses ranging from homicide and assault to sexual abuse and drug-related charges.
“While these data clearly reflect the fact that convicted criminals are an immigration enforcement priority, Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly has made it clear that ICE will no longer exempt any class of individuals from removal proceedings if they are found to be in the country illegally,” Homan stated. “This is evident by the rise in non-criminal arrests over the same period, which increased from approximately 4,200 in 2016 to more than 10,800 in 2017.
Homan added that those arrested receive the due process afforded to them under the law. ICE will take action to remove individuals subject to a final order by a federal immigration judge.
“We are a nation of laws, and ignoring orders issued by federal judges undermines our constitutional government,” Homan stated.
Members of the state’s congressional delegation say deporting law-abiding residents violates U.S. values and harms families.
“Arresting hardworking immigrants with no criminal histories — men and women who are just trying to provide for themselves and their families — is a waste of law-enforcement resources and against our values as Americans,” said U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-5th District. “I’m very disturbed by reports about ICE targeting people who have been living law-abiding lives for years, paying taxes, and contributing to our communities.”
Esty called the current immigration system “broken,” and doesn’t believe “tearing apart families and separating kids from their parents will do anything to fix it.”
She encouraged anyone in her congressional district who is having difficulties with federal officials to contact her office staff for help. Esty’s district covers Meriden, Cheshire and Plainville, among other cities and towns in central and western Connecticut.
U.S. Sen. Christopher Murphy, D-Connecticut, sent a letter on Chavarria’s behalf to ICE urging discretion and joined other lawmakers in visiting her in the New Haven church where she took sanctuary.
Murphy expressed relief at the judge’s decision, but called it a temporary victory against a “mean-spirited” deportation policy.
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