A Derby man who was hours away from being deported back to Guatemala was granted a last-minute stay on his decades-old deportation order. He now has 30 days to determine a solution for his immigration status.
Luis Barrios, a father of four who has been in the U.S. since 1992, learned about the order issued by the Department of Homeland Security as he and his family prepared for his flight out of the country. His lawyer, Erin O'Neil-Baker, said that the family is relieved, but the temporary stay doesn't solve the long-term problem.
"The family is overwhelmed with gratitude and joy over this stay despite its short duration," O'Neil-Baker said.
Barrios came to the U.S. illegally and was ordered to leave the country in 1998. He missed a hearing he'd requested for asylum, and has been checking in with immigration officials since 2011, when he came back on their radar after being pulled over for a broken taillight.
Barrios could still be deported. O'Neil-Baker said he could face violence or threats if he's forced to return to Guatemala.
"Multiple family members have been kidnapped, murdered -- both his immediate relatives and his wife's side of the family," she said.
The order came after days of public outcry against the deportation order. State and federal lawmakers from Connecticut, and over 3,000 petitioners, had urged immigration authorities to let Barrios stay. At a protest in Hartford, 19 people were arrested after they locked arms in front of a federal immigration office, forcing its closure.
O'Neil-Baker said Barrios's situation had been stable until Donald Trump took office earlier this year. From her email:
In December 2016 Mr. Barrios appeared at [Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE] to check in and was told that a stay of removal was not even necessary for him, that he did not need to file a stay of removal, that he was fine. A week following Trump's executive order, Barrios was again told to report to ICE and file an official stay of removal which was promptly denied on March 2.
Three hours prior to the stay order being delivered to Barrios, Shawn Neudauer, an ICE spokesman, told WNPR that it was standing by its earlier statement regarding the deportation order. From Neudauer's email:
Luis Barrios, an unlawfully present citizen of Guatemala, was ordered removed by an immigration judge in 1998— a ruling that was uniformly upheld after multiple reviews before the immigration courts.
In an exercise of discretion, ICE has allowed Mr. Barrios to remain free from custody while finalizing his departure plans. The agency will continue to closely monitor his case to ensure his timely departure in compliance with the 1998 final order of removal.
WNPR will be following this story as it develops over the next month.