Yale students and New Haven residents rallied before the steps of the First and Summerfield Methodist Church Friday afternoon in support of Marco Antonio Reyes, an undocumented Ecuadorian who is currently seeking sanctuary from immigration authorities.
A father of three with no past criminal record, Reyes has sought refuge in the church for the past four weeks. Reyes first came to the country in 1997 and, after a decade of seeking legal recourse, was ordered to be deported on Aug. 8. Though he had planned to board a plane to Ecuador on Aug. 8, Reyes said he made “a very difficult decision” to instead come to New Haven and wait for his final legal option of seeking asylum status.
The Friday rally, organized by the local immigrant rights group Unidad Latina en Acción, aimed to raise awareness of Reyes’ case among the Yale community. ULA member Jesus Morales Sanchez pointed out during the rally that the church neighbors the Yale campus, as it sits directly across from Grace Hopper College and Old Campus.
“You are sharing this space,” Sanchez said. “We want you to become a part of this community and this movement, not only to help Marco but advocating all the families who don’t have the luxury of having their stories heard.”
U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., who sent remarks to the Friday rally, called on her colleagues in Congress to take up comprehensive immigration reforms that would provide a path to citizenship for those who abide by the law without compromising border security.
She further criticized a policy change by President Donald Trump that now deports undocumented immigrants regardless of their criminal history. On the campaign trail, Trump had promised to target only those with felony records, not “upstanding members of society,” DeLauro added.
Reyes, joined by his wife Fanny Reyes and his 21-year-old son Antonio Reyes at the rally, addressed the crowd by asking his son to read a written statement. He said though he is confined within the sanctuary, he tries to stay strong for his family and hopes to see the end of injustice for not just him and his family, but for the 11 million undocumented immigrants as well.
“I would not wish this nightmare on anyone but this is the reality that I live in,” Marco Reyes’ remarks read. “Support is all I ask for. You can make a difference for me and my family.”
Located at the intersection of Elm and College streets, the Methodist church is one of two New Haven churches that declared itself a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants this April. According to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement policy, agency operations are generally avoided in “sensitive locations” such as schools and places of religious worship.
Reyes is currently seeking asylum status by trying to reopen his case for a stay of removal with the U.S. Department of Justice. According to his lawyer Erin O’Neil-Baker, a convicted Ecuadorian murderer has made multiple threats against Reyes and his family, which might be grounds for his asylum claim.
In addition to rallying support for Reyes, the demonstration also touched upon issues such as declaring Yale as a sanctuary campus and fighting against the prospect of the White House discontinuing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
ULA member and rally co-organizer Ramon Garibaldo Valdez GRD ’22 criticized the University administration’s lukewarm attitude toward designating Yale as a sanctuary for undocumented immigrant families. He added that Yalies should be more aware of the harsh reality that these families face, especially when they are seeking help so close to campus.
DACA, a program enacted under the Obama administration to protect immigrant children who came to the U.S. when they were minors, is currently under threat as Trump appears close to a decision to end it with a six-month delay. Though the White House plans to make a formal announcement this Tuesday, news that Trump is pulling the plug on DACA — first reported by Politico Sunday afternoon — has jolted activist communities into action.
Miranda Rector ’20, who attended the Friday rally, said because there are Yale students directly impacted by the DACA decision, the University administration should take a stronger stance in support of them.
“There is a lot of sympathy among students in general,” she said. “Even if you don’t know someone — these things are often kept under wraps — to know that your peers might lose everything in an instant with an executive order is terrifying.”
The second local church that has declared itself to be sanctuary, Iglesia de Dios Pentecostal, is situated in Fair Haven, a predominantly Latinx and immigrant neighborhood in the city.
Contact Amy Cheng at email@example.com .