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Immigration officials give yearlong reprieve to New London father of child with rare disease

Federal immigration officials will allow a New London man who was at risk of deportation while his son is being treated for a rare genetic disease to stay in the United States for another year.

According to a statement from U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., federal immigration officials issued a stay of deportation Friday, less than two weeks before Julian Rodriguez was scheduled to get on a plane back to his home country of Colombia.

Julian Rodriguez and his longtime partner, Diana Cortes, were denied asylum after they fled violence in Colombia to come to the United States. The federal government has issued Rodriguez multiple stays of removal since 2009 because of the treatment their son Santiago needs, and because Santiago and Cortes participate in federally funded research by the National Institutes of Health to develop a treatment for the condition.

But at a recent meeting, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials told him to purchase a one-way ticket to Colombia. Rodriguez was scheduled to take a flight on Sept. 12 amid pleas from his family, attorney, politicians and supporters in New London for ICE officials to change their minds. 

On Friday ICE officials told Rodriguez's attorney, Glenn Formica, that they had granted Rodriguez's request for another stay of deportation, giving him at least another year in the United States.

"I am overjoyed for Julian, who can celebrate today knowing that for the next year his family can remain together, and his son Santiago can continue to receive the miraculous care and treatment that has saved his life," Blumenthal said in a statement Friday. "Today's stay of deportation is a victory for the Rodriguez family, but also for humanity, justice and our national interest."

Santiago was diagnosed at age 6 with chronic granulomatous, which causes the immune system to malfunction. He underwent an experimental bone marrow transplant and is now being treated at Connecticut Children's Medical Center in Hartford and contributes to studies with the National Institutes of Health, which potentially "benefit the whole nation," Blumenthal said in a statement in August.

Blumenthal said he appealed to ICE and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services on Rodriguez's behalf, arguing that allowing him to stay in the United States was in the "national interest" because his son and wife, who carries the disease, are participating in the research.

Santiago, now 14 and six years removed from the transplant, is in stable health but continues to visit NIH every six months and Children's Medical Center every two to three months.

Blumenthal and U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, came to Rodriguez's defense in recent months, arguing at an August 14 news conference that Rodriguez has not been convicted of any crime and that deporting him would unnecessarily break up the family while Santiago and Cortes participate in the NIH research.


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