Nelson Rosales Santos

AP Photo/Pat Eaton-Robb

Advocates Say 6-Month Reprieve Not Enough Time For Immigrant In Need Of Kidney Transplant

June 15, 2018 - 1:14 pm

HARTFORD, Conn. (WCBS 880/AP) — Connecticut Sen Richard Blumenthal is going to bat for a man who faces both a kidney transplant and deportation.

Fresh from a round of dialysis, Nelson Rosales Santos stood with Blumenthal on Friday and pleaded with ICE for a stay of deportation. 

"Yesterday in the morning when I woke up, I don't feel very well. It's very hard," said Santos. 

Federal immigration officials granted him a six-month reprieve on Thursday, a move his supporters say won't be long enough to allow him to undergo a scheduled kidney transplant. 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 12 months of follow-up visits and treatment.

"I want to stay by my family and get a transplant. That's what I want. I don't want nothing else," Santos said.

Dozens of people, including Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, rallied in front of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices in Hartford on Thursday in support of the 49-year-old who was scheduled to be deported to Honduras on Monday, despite suffering from advanced renal failure. He also has diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney 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.

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 all were born in the U.S. He works, pays taxes and has no criminal record.

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.

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."

The senator says he deserves to stay. 

"If he has a year he can proceed with the treatment he needs, and that's life-saving treatment. A year is really necessary for him to survive," Blumenthal said. "Put aside the gangs, drugs, violence. Deporting Nelson to Honduras is a death sentence because he has kidneys that are simply not functioning... He could not survive in Honduras."

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. He said he will seek to extend that stay to at least 12 months.

"I just don't believe we are this vicious as a country," Formica said. "This policy speaks otherwise."