Temporary stay not enough for Stamford father in failing health
STAMFORD — A city man suffering from kidney failure is fighting to stay in the country long enough to get a transplant.
Nelson Rosales Santos, who needs dialysis several days a week, received a small victory on Thursday when he was granted a six-month stay of deportation to Honduras.
But it may not be long enough, according to Catalina Horak, an advocate for Santos and founder of Stamford’s Building One Community immigrant center.
Horak said Mount Sinai Hospital will only perform the transplant if Santos, who is scheduled to receive a kidney from a private donor at the end of the summer, gets a year-long stay in the U.S.
”Right now, it's a catch-22," Horak said. ”The whole thing is how can we get the support we need so he can have the time required for the transplant? That's the goal. He's super happy, but not having more time is kind of kicking it down the road as opposed to having a permanent solution.”
Horak joined other immigration advocates and elected officials Thursday afternoon in Hartford for a rally outside the Hartford Immigration and Customs Enforcement office.
”He needs another six months,” Horak said. “The whole sense was this is such a compelling and no-brainer case. We're not the kind of country that sends sick people away."
Last month, ICE officials ordered Santos, 49, to return to his native Honduras. Santos, who has no criminal record, was issued an order of removal when he entered the U.S. illegally in 1989. He has not been able to obtain a green card through his wife, who is a U.S. citizen.
“This deportation would have been a death sentence — a cruel and callous act that history would have judged in the harshest of lights,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. “But six months is a short reprieve, and we must redouble our efforts to achieve permanent relief for this Connecticut family.”
Santos, a chef who is married with three children, has called Stamford home since he came to the U.S.
“I can’t live without him,” said his wife, Patricia Morales, 53. “It’s very hard. He’s my company. He’s my everything.”
Morales, a babysitter, and Santos live in a neatly kept home in a quiet neighborhood behind Stamford High School. Santos has three children, ranging in age from 11 to 19, from a previous marriage who live nearby with their mother.
Santos’ parents and siblings also live in Stamford. While Santos came with his brother and sister to the U.S., he was the only one denied a green card.
“He’s a hard-working man,” said his sister, Xiomara Hernandes, 51. “He’s not a criminal. It’s like sending him to die over there. They don’t care. They don’t have a heart.”
Immigration attorney Glenn Formica, who has been representing Santos pro bono, said deporting immigrants without criminal backgrounds has become more common.
“A few years ago, I’d maybe see a hard-luck case every once in a while,” he said. “I go through more tissue paper than copy papers in my office these days. ... This is something ICE a couple years ago would’ve said ‘I hope it works out for you. Let me sign you out for a year.’ This isn’t something that should be in headlines. The fact is it says a lot without saying anything.”
Formica said his client will not receive the treatment he needs in Honduras.
”Once he gets to Honduras, he’s going to have to enter a medical system, which is not the greatest and then find appropriate renal care for a really complicated renal problem. That’s going to take several days,” Formica said. “You have a guy who’s here for 30 years, has a family with kids, he has private health insurance through his wife, he even has two potential private donors. ... On top of that, you’re leaving children without a father, a wife without a husband and for what? Just to say you got someone with an order of removal out of the country?”
Santos, who said he came to the U.S. for a better life, said he would rather die than return to a country where he has no family or health care.
“I don’t want to go back,” he said. “I want to die.”
firstname.lastname@example.org; (203) 964-2265; @erin_kayata