University students have rallied behind a petition to prevent the deportation of Luis Barrios, a father of four who has lived in Connecticut for 25 years, and who was recently told he needed to leave the United States by May 4. The petition has garnered over 2,000 signatures since the date of its publication and has been circling around the Wesleyan community and Connecticut via Facebook. Additionally, a number of protests and demonstrations have taken place across Connecticut.
According to a Facebook page pushing for Connecticut residents to call local representatives in support of Barrios, the husband and father first came under the radar of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) when he was caught driving with a broken tail light. Barrios, who owns a home in Derby, Conn., has no criminal convictions. Between the years of 2011 and 2017, his case was not of high urgency for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
“Considering him a low priority, ICE granted him a stay of removal and renewed it annually for 5 years,” the Facebook page reads. “Last February, at his first ICE check-in under the Trump administration, ICE told Luis that he needed to depart the United States on May 4, 2017.”
The page also notes that Luis’s lawyer filed a motion to re-open the case, but ICE continues to insist that Barrios depart from the United States for Guatemala by May 4. In addition to providing information about Barrios’ life, the page asks supporters to call Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy to urge him to use discretion to grant Barrios a stay of removal. The page also asks supporters to call ICE.
The page has been widely circulated. One post in the discussion section describes the response from the Hartford ICE office.
“I asked for Pam DiCenzo, but was able speak to one of her colleagues,” reads the post. “He had received calls about Luis’ case and, although considerate, replied that ICE is an enforcement agency and cannot do anything to reverse the decision. ‘Mr. Barrios’ attorney must go through the courts directly to apply for a stay of removal.’ Of course, we know from the provided narrative that all attempts on that front have been exhausted. When I used the phrase ‘prosecutorial discretion,’ I was told, ‘We’d be violating a court order.’”
Despite this discouraging response, demonstrations and calls have continued, and local politicians have made comments about Barrios’ situation. A demonstration took place in Hartford on April 29, during which Senator Richard Blumenthal spoke about Barrios.
“Luis Barrios,” he reportedly said. “What has he done?”
“Nothing!” responded the crowd.
U.S. Representative John Larson also spoke at the rally.
“We are a nation of immigrants,” he said. “Your fight is our fight.”
In addition to Larson and Blumenthal’s comments, Connecticut Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro wrote a letter to Todd Thurlow, an assistant field office director for ICE , imploring him to allow Barrios to stay.
“I am asking for your consideration on Attorney O’Neil-Baker’s Motion to Reopen Order of Removal and an emergency Stay of Deportation,” DeLauro wrote. “I am mindful of the fact that a provision of the law permits his deportation, but it does not require it…I am requesting prosecutorial discretion in this matter, and fair-minded consideration of the entirety of Mr. Barrios’ contributions to society and obligations to support and care for his family.”
Natalie Alexander, a member of the Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) Deportation Defense, which has been organizing Barrios’ campaign, noted in an email to The Argus on April 30 that SURJ has been making large efforts through a variety of methods to prevent Barrios’ deportation.
“In the past week, we’ve organized a petition to ICE Field Director Todd Thurlow that has garnered over 2000 signatures, launched a social media campaign to lobby Senator Murphy, and badgered ICE in Hartford that’s resulted in several hundred calls…coordinated with Luis’ lawyer to explore different legal avenues towards a new stay of removal pending the reopening of his asylum case; mobilized a 90-person rally in front of the ICE building in Hartford on Friday that received extensive press coverage…will stand with Luis as he speaks in front of thousands at New Haven’s May Day march tomorrow, May 1, at 5:30 pm; will be escalating nonviolent direct action at ICE on Tuesday,” she said.
Alexander also noted that SURJ has been working closely with Barrios and his family.
“Beginning with accompanying Luis to an interview with the New Haven Register last Wednesday, we’ve checked in daily with Luis’ daughter, Jessica, and [made] sure Luis and his family is on board with each escalation of tactics. Erin O’Neil Baker, his lawyer, has also given us the go-ahead with each step. On Friday we went to a prayer gathering at Luis’ home in Derby and spent several hours interviewing his family and friends,” she explained.
The petition directed at Thurlow has circled around the University, with multiple students sharing the petition on Facebook. Katie Vasquez ’20, who shared the petition with friends, explained that she felt it was important to support immigrant rights.
“I have heard a lot about trivial offenses that break up families with immigrants, especially in my own community, so it was important to me to spread the word about Barrios so he could keep the life he found here,” she explained.
In addition to the May 1 “May Day” protest and rally, there will be future events supporting immigrant services and rights in the Connecticut area. On May 6 at the Bregamos Community Theater in New Haven, the Immigrant Bail Fund will host a fundraiser to pay bonds for immigrants who cannot afford it. As of now, the fight for Barrios to stay continues.
“[We] are committed to fighting for Luis’ right to stay with his family until the plane doors close,” Alexander said.