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Family of detained "Dreamer" appeals to Michigan's congressional delegation to intervene

Dustin Dwyer
Michigan Radio
Marilú Parra-Velázquez, center, speaks with other members of Brandon Reyes' family at a press conference near Grand Rapids.";

A West Michigan mother says she hopes Michigan policymakers will intervene to spare her son from deportation.

Marilú Parra-Velázquez says she brought her son Brandon Reyes to the U.S. from Mexico when he was five.

For him, Grand Rapids is home, she says. He’s active in his community and in his church, and she says he’s a good role model for his two younger sisters, who are U.S. citizens.

“Our family, the suffering we feel,” Parra-Velázquez said at a press conference today near Grand Rapids. She spoke in Spanish.

Mis hijas lo extraña mucho.”

“My daughters miss him a lot.”

Reyes was enrolled in the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program initiated by the Obama administration to protect young immigrants from deportation.

But Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested him in February, saying a DUI conviction from last year put his status in jeopardy.

His mother was with him in the car when he was arrested, and immigration officers arrested her along with him, in part because she says she couldn’t show a valid driver’s license.

Michigan doesn’t issue driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. Activists have been fighting to change that rule.

“If I’d had a valid driver’s license, it would have been different,” Parra-Velázquez says.

She had been held in the same immigration detention center along with her son, until a judge allowed her to be released on bond this week.

She said she was grateful to God to be home, but a piece of her is still in the detention center, with her son.

When she arrived home to see her two daughters, she said her youngest asked why their brother hadn’t come home with her.

Sergio Cira, an activist with Movimiento Cosecha GR who knows Reyes, says the entire community misses him.

“We are all hurting as a community,” Cira says. “When one of us is taken, we all hurt. When one of us is treated without respect, as second class citizens, the entire community hurts.”

Reyes has been active in the West Michigan immigrant rights community, and he’s met with the state’s policymakers to push for changes in immigration rules.

Reyes has a hearing later this month to determine whether he can be released from the detention center on bond, while he waits for a final determination on his immigration status.

In the meantime, his family and supporters say they hope a member of Michigan’s congressional delegation will intervene to help his case.

Members of Congress can submit a “private bill” on behalf of an immigration detainee to help prevent their deportation.

If that doesn’t work, supporters say they also plan to appeal to the governor’s office to pardon his DUI conviction. If that conviction is wiped from Reyes’ record, his DACA status could be reinstated, which could prevent a deportation.

Dustin Dwyer reports enterprise and long-form stories from Michigan Public’s West Michigan bureau. He was a fellow in the class of 2018 at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. He’s been with Michigan Public since 2004, when he started as an intern in the newsroom.
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