Federal immigration officials granted a six-month reprieve Thursday to a Connecticut immigrant facing deportation, a move that may allow him to undergo a scheduled kidney transplant.
The move came just hours before a rally Thursday in support of Nelson Rosales Santos, 49, who was scheduled to be deported to Honduras on Monday.
"This deportation would have been a death sentence — a cruel and callous act that history would have judged in the harshest of lights," U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said in announcing the postponement. "But six months is a short reprieve, and we must redouble our efforts to achieve permanent relief for this Connecticut family."
His family and supporters say Santos entered the country illegally but has lived in Stamford for 30 years, is married to a U.S. citizen and has three children, ages 19, 14 and 11, who were all born in the United States.
He also has diabetes, high blood pressure and is in renal failure, requiring dialysis every two days.
If Santos is forced to fly to Honduras, a country he has not seen in three decades, he would not have immediate access to dialysis and likely would be dead within a week, said his attorney, Glenn Formica.
"I don't want to die," Santos said in an email Thursday. "My kids and wife need me."
Federal immigration officials had no immediate comment on Santos' situation.
Santos works as a chef and has routinely received waivers allowing him to stay in the U.S., his supporters said.
His wife has successfully petitioned immigration officials to allow her husband to be considered for permanent resident status. But because of his 30-year-old deportation order, he was told he must leave the country during that process, said Catalina Horak, who is working on Santos' behalf with the immigration support group, Building One Community.
Formica said he was filing two separate requests to delay Santos' deportation. The first, before the federal Board of Immigration appeals, argues that the original deportation order was defective. The second, before ICE, requested the humanitarian stay of the deportation to allow Santos to receive a new kidney.
"I just don't believe we are this vicious as a country," Formica said before the reprieve. "This policy speaks otherwise."
Santos, who has private insurance through his wife, had a surgery date scheduled for later this month, but doctors told him they would not do the procedure until they receive assurances that he will be available for follow-up visits and treatment, Horak said.
Santos is willing to leave the country as required while awaiting his green card, Horak said, but can't do that until his medical situation is resolved.
"He works, he has insurance, he has a private donor," Horak said. "He's not doing this on anyone else's dime. He has an avenue for legalizing his situation. That's what makes this case so compelling."