An undocumented couple who have called the U.S. their home for more than 20 years is facing deportation. But their community is fighting back.
Residents of Simsbury, Connecticut, with the support of several legislators, participated in a rally on Sunday to protest deportation orders given to nail salon owners Zhe Long Huang and Xiang Jin Li, who are from China but are ethnically Korean.
With the couple scheduled to leave for China on Feb. 16, the rally-goers made a last-ditch push to allow the pair to stay in the U.S with their two sons. An additional rally for the couple is being held on Friday outside the local Immigration and Customs Enforcement office.
“Give me time to give my children a beautiful life,” Li told NBC Connecticut through tears. “Don’t split my family,”
Huang and Li came to the U.S. illegally back in 1999. Family friend Laurie Kane told Fox 61 that the couple had obtained work permits and have been paying taxes. They do not have criminal records.
The couple were given orders of removal about five years, ago but were granted stays, their lawyer Erin O’Neil-Baker explained to NBC. However, their orders of removal are now being enforced. And though both filed for permanent residency, an immigration judge denied their requests.
Their children, ages 5 and 15, were born in the U.S., only speak English, and are unfamiliar with Chinese culture. O’Neil-Baker told NBC that if the couple don’t take their kids with them to China, the children will be placed in state custody.
ICE said in a statement to Fox61 that the pair must leave the country.
“Both Mr. Huang and Ms. Li have previously been ordered by immigration judges to be removed from the U.S. to China, their country of origin,” the statement read. “Both have filed unsuccessful appeals to these orders and must depart the country.”
About 100 protestors gathered outside the couple’s salon for Sunday’s rally, which was organized by state Rep. John Hampton (D) and Simsbury First Selectman Eric Wellman. Several people held signs in support of the couple, and others criticized President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, the Hartford Courant reported. Huang and Li told people at the rally about their immigration status and journey.
Community members also have been standing with the pair in other ways. Kane, who also helped organize the rally and is collecting letters of support for the family, told NBC Connecticut that she’s received hundreds of messages from community members. A petition protesting the couple’s removal has garnered more than 5,300 signatures.
Other legislators also have expressed opposition to the scheduled deportation.
“I am doing all that I can to fight this cruel deportation ― a reckless and heartless action that would rip loving parents away from their two U.S. citizen children,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) told Fox 61.
Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn.) also spoke against the deportation order.
“Kris and Tony are small business owners who have lived, raised children, and paid taxes in Connecticut for nearly two decades,” Esty said in a statement to Fox 61. “Kris and Tony, we stand with you. Your story is yet another example of the need for comprehensive immigration reform that provides an earned pathway to citizenship.”
- This article originally appeared on HuffPost.