HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Immigrant advocates rallied in Connecticut on Friday to protest the planned deportation of a couple who have been in the U.S. for nearly 20 years and have two children who are American citizens.
Demonstrators outside the federal courthouse in Hartford called for federal officials to halt the deportation of Xiang Jin Li and Zhe Long Huang. The Farmington couple has been ordered to return to China on Feb. 16 under the Trump administration’s tougher immigration policies.
A spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, did not return a message seeking comment Friday.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut said he and other members of the state’s congressional delegation are asking immigration officials to stay the deportation order. He said the couple face possible persecution in China and may be sent to North Korea.
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Li and Huang, known as Kris and Tony to their friends, are ethnic Koreans who are from the Jilin province in China that borders North Korea. They do not have criminal records.
“They epitomize what we should want in people coming to this country,” Blumenthal said. “My message to ICE is come to your senses. Show us some common sense and humanity.”
The couple owns a nail salon in Simsbury. They entered the country illegally in 1999 in search of a better life and were ordered deported several years ago. Federal officials had granted them stays from deportation, but are now refusing to do so.
They are hoping the deportation order is stayed so they can pursue legal status.
Meanwhile, they say they won’t bring their two sons, who are 5 and 15 years old and only speak English, to China and are considering leaving them with friends in the U.S.
“I’m just so scared,” Li said at the rally Friday. “Please, please don’t separate my family.”
Her teenage son, Andrew, said he is having a hard time understanding why the government wants to break up his family and savoring the time with his parents before their possible deportation.
“I’m both scared and furious,” he said. “I’m praying to God that they don’t deport my family because, boy, is it wrong.”
Blumenthal said the deportation order is “un-American” and “betrays our values as a great nation.”