Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Thursday granted a six-month temporary stay to a Connecticut man in need of a kidney transplant who was scheduled for deportation next week, after days of advocacy by immigrant rights activists across the state.
Despite the immediate reprieve, Nelson Omar Rosales Santos, a father of three who has lived in Stamford, Connecticut for 30 years, still faces the possibility of a forced return to Honduras, where he lived before coming to the United States. Santos is married to an American citizen.
According to Kica Matos, a longtime New Haven activist and director of Immigrant Rights and Racial Justice at the Center for Community Change, Nelson has Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, and his kidneys do not function. He is scheduled for a kidney transplant later this summer.
“I can’t believe how many people, including the more than 6,000 signatures across the country in less than 24 hours, are organizing and helping us tell ICE how inhumane my deportation will be,” Santos said in a statement to the News. “I don’t want to die. My kids and wife need me,”
To protest the deportation, organizers from New Haven–based grassroots immigrant rights group Unidad Latina en Acción, the Connecticut Immigrants Rights Alliance and other social justice groups staged a protest at the Hartford Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office on June 14.
According to Santos’ lawyer, Catalina Horak, Santos is grateful for and stunned by the level of support he has received. Still, Horak said, his hospital will not perform the kidney transplant unless Santos receives assurance from ICE that he can stay in the country for at least a year.
“Nelson’s deportation order is a de facto death sentence,” Matos said in a statement. “If ICE doesn’t issue a stay of deportation, it is very possible that he will die on the return flight. His doctors have advised him to not travel.”
In a statement to the News, ICE’s New England public affairs officer, John Mahon, said that after a reviewing the facts of Santos’ case, ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations delayed his deportation for a period of six months.
“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.
Matos said she learned of Santos’ case when his lawyer and the executive director of the Center for Immigrant Opportunity reached out to her to ask for help formulating an advocacy strategy. Since then, a coalition of immigration advocates and faith leaders has come together to fight Nelson’s deportation and ensure he gets a much-needed kidney transplant.
For several years, organizers in New Haven have criticized ICE for its treatment of immigrants, staging several demonstrations against increases in the number of deportation orders and arrests of immigrants by ICE officials in courthouses.
In February, nearly 100 local activists, legal-aid organizations, religious leaders and community members rallied outside the New Haven County Courthouse to protest ICE courthouse arrests and deportation around the state.
“In what seems like a never-ending downpour of anti-immigrant, anti-family sentiments and actions at the hands our government, this is yet another show of the inhumanity and callousness of ICE,” a joint June 13 statement from ULA, Action Together CT and CT Shoreline Indivisible read.
In addition, organizers are circulating an online petition to raise awareness about Santos’ situation. The organizers will deliver the letter to U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. and Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and the Boston ICE Field Director Todd Thurlow.