35 arrested in protest for Meriden couple facing deportation

35 arrested in protest for Meriden couple facing deportation


HARTFORD — Dozens of activists were arrested after blocking the doors to the federal immigration office Monday, protesting the deportation order for Meriden couple Franklin and Gioconda Ramos, who must leave their two adult sons behind and board a plane for Ecuador on Friday.

Jason Ramos, the couple’s son, was arrested along with religious leaders, scholars and activists. Linking arms and holding bright orange banners reading “Keep the Ramos family together,” and “ICE stop your ethnic cleansing,” the protesters chanted the names of other undocumented immigrants affected by the increase in removal orders. One of those names was that of another Meriden resident, Marco Reyes, who has taken sanctuary in a New Haven church.

“The 11 million,” Jason Ramos said, leading the crowd in chant. “We raise our voice for them. Not one more.”

Franklin and Gioconda Ramos were 19 when they illegally crossed the border into the United States in 1993. Since settling in Meriden, they learned English, purchased a home on Cook Avenue, and raised two sons, who are U.S. citizens and attend Central Connecticut State University.

On Aug. 1, U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement informed the couple it would be enforcing final orders of removal, giving them until the end of the month to purchase tickets to Ecuador. The Ramos couple and Reyes are among up to 1,800 undocumented immigrants in Meriden whose future became uncertain after Trump administration policy changes. The administration ended automatic renewals for stays of removal, leading to a 60 percent increase in deportation orders for undocumented residents with work tax identification cards.

The Ramos couple complied with the government’s request, presenting proof of one-way plane tickets at the Hartford immigration office, where a crowd of supporters rallied in the street, on Aug. 31. They have been ordered to wear GPS ankle bracelets until their flight on Friday. Although Jason Ramos has an application to sponsor his parents for green cards, authorities have refused to extend the deportation deadline and a New York immigration office declined to join in a motion to reopen their case, leaving the couple with no legal options. After deportation, undocumented immigrants residing in the country for over a year are required to remain outside the U.S. for 10 years unless a waiver is obtained.

Protesters gathered at the Abraham Ribicoff Federal Building at 450 Main St. just before 8 a.m. Monday. Activists sat peacefully in front of the doorway while a crowd of over 100 gathered in front of the building, holding signs and chanting. About a dozen police officers were stationed in the street.

Sitting in front of the glass doors to the building, the Rev. Paul Fleck, of the Hamden Plains United Methodist Church, compared the struggle to that of the biblical David and Goliath.

“They say that the Israelites said that Goliath was so big, how could we beat him? David said, ‘Goliath he’s so big how could I miss?’ ” Fleck said. “We’ve targeted you today, ICE, and we’re going to keep coming back if you don’t free Marco Reyes, if you don’t allow the Ramos family to stay, if you keep tearing our families apart in Connecticut.”

The protest was personal for Yale University history professor Jennifer Klein, whose family escaped the Holocaust.

“We want families to be together. We want people to flourish in America as I was ultimately able to do because my father, my aunt and my grandparents could come here,” Klein said.

Police ordered the crowd to move to the sidewalk just before 9 a.m. and began escorting the protesters from the door. The protesters complied peacefully and filled three police transport vans.

Hartford Deputy Police Chief Brian Foley said 35 people were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and first-degree trespassing.

Among those not arrested was Marty Nathan, a Springfield, Massachusetts, physician, who said it is important to those with citizenship to speak out against the deportations as “a lot of people risking deportation cannot stand up,”

“It’s very important for us as citizens to be here to stand against injustice,” Nathan said. “We are here to fight for their rights.”

“The whole approach of ICE and the federal government is wrong,” said Bloomfield resident Nancy Bowden. “This is not the way to go about dealing with undocumented people. The better way to deal with it is to give them a path to citizenship that is reasonable.”

With a few days remaining, it is unclear if the Ramos’ will board their flight or seek sanctuary like Reyes, whose family attended the protest.

Attorney Erin O’Neil-Baker said Reyes’ case is still pending with the Board of Immigration Appeals.

The last few weeks have been “painful” for the Reyes family, who visit Marco at the church daily. If he leaves the church he will be detained and deported, leaving behind a wife and three children.

“He’s hanging in there,” said his wife, Fanny Reyes. “It’s very hard for him.”

After his brother was led away by police, Erick Ramos spoke emotionally in front of the court house. He was supposed to be in math class that morning, he said.

“My mom and dad are leaving me. What have I done?” Erick Ramos said. “This is breaking me down ... I’m on my knees pleading with you. I want ordinary life back. .. I’m not going to stop until they get their justice. I’m not going to stop until anyone else who is scared can come up and tell you, ‘I’m undocumented and I’m not scared anymore.’ ”

ltauss@record-journal.com 203-317-2231 Twitter: @LeighTaussRJ

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