An East Hartford family will be ripped apart just before Christmas.
The family's sole caretaker, a husband, father and grandfather, who has been in the United States legally will be deported back to his country. Domingo Ferreira is facing deportation over a crime that he committed a decade ago.
In just a few days, Ferreira will have to report to the immigration office in Hartford where he will take a plane back to the Dominican Republic and likely never return.
The Ferreira family cherished the few moments they have left together on Friday. Ferreira is being forced to leave what he has called home for the past 30 years.
Ferreira was considered a "lawful permanent resident” and is living in Connecticut legally. He came to the United States from the Dominican Republic at the age of 14.
After getting a letter from the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement, life for their family won't be the same.
“I have to remain strong for them,” Ferreira said. “It's not me that I'm worried about. It's more them.”
The ICE letter was postmarked Nov. 25 giving him and his family 11 days’ notice. He's set to be deported to the Dominican Republic on Tuesday. The family said this incident started after someone stole Domingo's identity a few years ago and ICE deported the criminal thinking it was Domingo.
“Today, we are sitting here knowing Tuesday he is leaving permanently, never to come back to the US again,” Diane Ferreira said.
Eyewitness News sat down exclusively with him and his wife.
"It's our family that is suffering. We are all we have," Diane Ferreira said. "We don't have any extended family."
Domingo Ferreira admitted to stealing a wallet and purse 12 years ago. Court record show he was convicted of the larceny charge for the non-violent crime and did jail time.
“I was so depressed,” Domingo Ferreira said. “I couldn't work and provide for my family like I was doing. And one thing lead to another and committed this horrible larceny.”
Domingo Ferreira said the arrest happened after he lost his two full time jobs after getting hurt on the job and turned to painkillers. He said that's when he committed the crime.
“I know I did something wrong, but I think I paid my debt to society and I always paid my taxes,” Domingo Ferreira said. “And I feel like no one can make a mistake and ended up paying for my mistake. But I'm not the only one who is going to suffer, it's my family that is going to suffer the most.”
According to the courts, his record has been clean ever since he finished his sentence in 2005. The larceny charge falls under what's called an "aggravated felony." Federal law passed in 1996 expanded what crimes are considered aggravated felonies. It includes larceny, murder, drug trafficking and sex abuse of a minor.
Lawyers said ICE has the authority to hold off deportation until after the holiday. His lawyer tried and it was denied.
"As a result of legislation that was passed in 1996 a larceny conviction that results in a sentence of one year or more is considered an aggravated felony. It does not matter if the sentence is suspended and the person does not go to jail. The immigration consequence of an aggravated felony conviction for a permanent resident almost always results in deportation from the United States and permanent exile. There is a complete lack of proportionality in that a person with a larceny conviction is treated the same way as a major drug dealer or a murderer," the family's lawyer Anthony Collins said in a statement on Friday. "The injustice of this legislation is that frequently the immigration consequence far outweighs the criminal penalty in severity. In addition, the permanent resident is given no opportunity to tell a judge that they have been rehabilitated and should be given a second chance. This is particularly troubling because in many cases Immigration and Customs Enforcement frequently does not start removal proceedings until years after the criminal case has been resolved and the permanent resident has been leading a law abiding life. That is the case in Mr. Ferreira's situation. He has been a permanent resident since 1986."
Eyewitness News reached out to U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal to see if he could stall the deportation process. He has been supporter of giving families more time before they're deported. His proposed legislation was passed by the senate, but died in the house.
“I am sympathetic to this family’s circumstances. I have asked ICE to delay deportation, and ICE has rejected this request in the past 24 hours. I am renewing my request and asking for reconsideration based on the Ferreira family’s medical hardships."
Blumenthal said he called ICE to take another look because there's information they didn't have. The senator will know for sure if deportation is stalled on Monday.
Domingo Ferreira has been married to his wife for more than 20 years. They have three children. A granddaughter and a grandson are on the way.
Domingo Ferreira was the sole caretaker for his family. His wife was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor and she can no longer work.
His daughter is going through chemotherapy treatments.
Eyewitness News learned Domingo Ferreira has diabetes.
“He is worried about us. And I'm worried about him,” Diane Ferreira said. “We are because who is going to pay his medical care there? Who is going to buy his insulin? He doesn't even have a place to go, never mind buy insulin.”
The Ferreira family said they won't be able to travel to the third world country because of their medical issues.
“We don't have the funds to go with him. We can't because of our medical care. We realistically can't live with him,” Diane Ferreira said. “We can't realistically can't go back and forth to the country. This is the end of a 23-year marriage.”
While they know under law, Domingo Ferreira will have to be deported. They want more time with him, even just to spend one last Christmas together.
“Someone you spent your life with since the age of 17. I'm never going to see again,” Diane Ferreira said. “I just want a few weeks, just a few weeks.”
The family said they were holding onto hope as they say that's all they have left.
“It’s just hard. I make a mistake and I know that I'm not a saint, I'm not asking for the impossible,” Domingo Ferreira said. “I just want to be with my family and see my kids grow up.”
“We don't know if we will ever see each other again,” Diane Ferreira said. “We don't know if he will see his grandson, if the granddaughter he raises will ever remember him. He such a big part of her life.”
Lawyers said once you're deported, it's extremely difficult to come back to us. Eyewitness News learned Domingo Ferreira had to buy his one-way ticket to the Dominican Republic or face prison time. Then, it would be up to the Dominican Republic to pick up the costs.
A GoFundMe account has been started for the family. To donate, click here.
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