HARTFORD, CT – Nineteen people who sat, arms locked, in front of locked doors at the Abraham Ribicoff Federal Building Tuesday to protest the pending deportation of a Derby man were arrested.
The arrests, by Hartford police, came after an hour-long rally, attended by 75 people, who marched and chanted slogans in support of Luis Barrios, a Guatemalan citizen, who is married and has four U.S. – born children.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is expected to deport Barrios on Thursday.
Tuesday’s demonstration was a last ditch effort to stop his deportation. Those arrested would likely be charged with disorderly conduct and criminal trespass charges, Hartford Deputy Police Chief Brian Foley, who was at the scene, said.
One of those arrested was Natalie Alexander of New Haven, a member of Showing Up for Racial Justice.
“We’re here to make the moral argument that ICE shouldn’t be doing this to Luis,” Alexander said. She said she had never been arrested before but she felt strongly that Barrios deportation was wrong “and I’m ready to make a stand.”
Another person arrested was Joe Schaefer of West Haven. He said he couldn’t imagine being torn away from his family the way Barrios may soon be, adding “I thought America was supposed to be the land of the free.”
Before the arrests were made, the crowd marched and chanted loud statement such as, “Keep Luis Home”; “Not One more Deportation”; “Up with liberation, down with deportation”; and, “Hey ICE – Leave our families in peace, don’t you dare deport Luis.”
Barrios has been ordered to report to John F. Kennedy Airport in New York on Thursday for deportation back to his native Guatemala on a 4 a.m. flight.
An undocumented immigrant, Barrios has lived in Connecticut for two decades with no criminal record.
Barrios fled Guatemala in 1992. Several of his close family members and friends have been kidnapped and murdered there, Barrios has said, who added he fears his life will be endangered if he returns to Guatemala.
In 2011, Connecticut state police pulled over Barrios for a broken tail light and detained him for transfer to ICE officials. Considering him a low priority, ICE granted him a stay of removal and renewed it annually for 5 years.
In February 2017, at his first ICE check-in under the Trump administration, ICE officials informed Barrios that his stay would no longer be granted and would be required to depart the United States, pursuant to a 1998 judicial order.
Barrios’ deportation had been considered a low priority until this year.
On Monday, U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy wrote to Immigration and Customs Enforcement seeking reconsideration of the decision to deport Barrios.
Both Blumenthal and Murphy said they have repeatedly reached out to ICE officials and have received no information to justify the action.
“It does not appear that Mr. Barrios poses a threat to the integrity of the immigration system,” the senators wrote. “Mr. Barrios has no aggravated felonies, felonies, or misdemeanors in the United States, is a productive and valued member of his community, and has four U.S. citizen children. Based on these factors, we respectfully ask that his request for prosecutorial discretion be granted.”
Last week, U.S. Rep Rosa DeLauro, whose district encompasses Barrios hometown of Derby, issued a letter to ICE New England Regional Director Todd Thurlow, stating “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. I am deeply concerned about this situation.”
Barrios has filed a motion to reopen the deportation order, which is still pending with the Board of Immigration Appeals.
One of the rally organizers, Katie Miles, said that a petition with over 2,500 signers urging a stay of the removal of Barrios was delivered to Thurlow’s Boston office earlier Tuesday.
Phone and email messages to Thurlow’s office were not returned.
The rally turned tense because the doors to the federal building were locked from the inside once protesters sat in front of the entrance.
That meant several people who had appointments with immigration officials scheduled at the Ribicoff building could not get inside.
Several of those who had appointments got into angry exchanges with the protesters. One man, who did not want to give his name, said he was from Windsor and said he feared “I’ll be thrown out of the country” by missing his appointment.
Carlos Moreno, a spokesman for the Working Families Party, who was at the rally, said locking the doors from the inside was an unnecessary step.
“They’re trying to pit people against each other,” Moreno said. Moreno and other protesters repeatedly told those with appointments that they would have been glad to step away from the door to let them in.