Friends, family rally around longtime Kent resident facing deportation
KENT — A town resident who has called Kent home for around 25 years might be forced to leave when a judge rules on his possible deportation on April 3.
Tino Santiago is known by many in the community as a friend, always willing to help out those in need. But now, he faces possible deportation after he was picked up by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents around 9 a.m. on Feb. 26.
ICE agents picked up Tino Santiago as he was headed to Kent Center School, 9 Judd Ave., to pick up his 14-year-old son, according to 19-year-old Jordan Santiago, one of Tino Santiago’s sons.
On Wednesday, a judge is set to decide Tino Santiago’s fate during a hearing at 1 p.m. The hearing, which is open to the public, will be at the U.S. District Court, 450 Main St. in Hartford.
“That will be the final decision on whether he stays here, or they’ll send him back to Mexico,” said Jordan Santiago in an interview on Saturday.
Lawyers representing Tino Santiago could not be reached for comment. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office of Public Affairs could not immediately be reached for comment.
Tino Santiago is from Oaxaca, Mexico. He is married and has three sons — ages 7, 14 and 19.
Jordan Santiago said his family has been collecting documents to prove his father has paid his taxes. He said his father has held a steady job as a chef at a local restaurant, Kingsley Tavern, for 25 years.
“He has a massive reputation around the community,” Jordan Santiago said. “Everybody loves him. Without him, it wouldn’t be the same.”
Kent resident Susan Forbes said in an interview Saturday she has known Tino Santiago for about 25 years and has always been close with him and his family. She recalled when her husband died about a year ago and Tino Santiago helped her move out of her house into a condo.
“He does a low of work for the people in Kent and people around Kent,” Forbes said.
Tino Santiago has been detained since he was picked up in late February and is being held in a facility in Greenfield, Massachusetts, his son said.
Jordan Santiago said his family believes his father’s two driving under the influence arrests, in 2008 and 2016, were possibly what caught the attention of ICE.
“Maybe they see the first one and let it go. Or maybe they didn’t see it,” he said. “But then the second one comes up, and they decide to pick him up.”
Jordan Santiago said people in the community have been supporting his family. He said school counselors have been helping his two brothers. He said although the 14-year-old didn’t see their father get detained, he has been been the one most impacted by it.
“It’s especially taking a toll on him,” Jordan Santiago said. “He wakes up in the middle of the night scared, he thinks people are stalking him.”
Jordan Santiago, who has Type 1 diabetes, said he and his two brothers, who are autistic, were born in the United States. Jordan Santiago said the stress of what has happened with his father landed him in the hospital with a very low blood sugar one day.
“It’s been very up and down because of all the stress right now,” he said.
He said since his father is the family’s sole provider, they would all have to move with him if he gets sent back to Mexico. He said that terrifies him since he relies on medicine to keep his diabetes under control.
“We’re a low-income family. We’re unable to really afford a lot,” Jordan Santiago said. “If we go to Mexico and I can’t get my insulin, I could pretty much just die.”
Forbes said the town has been rallying around the Santiago family.
“I’m very fond of Tino,” Forbes said. “People in Kent know him, they like him. He’s friends with everybody. We’re trying to do what we can.”