Family of Greenwich murder victim decries GOP ‘secure the border’ ad
GREENWICH — The Connecticut Republican Party has agreed to take down a video it posted this week that used the death of Valerie Reyes, whose body was found in Greenwich, to push the message “Secure the Border Now.”
The young woman’s family complained that they did not want their daughter used that way.
The brief political promotion, posted on Twitter on Thursday, the day of Reyes’ funeral, attacked the two Democratic U.S. senators from Connecticut and stated, “Valerie Reyes is Dead, Your Silence is Deafening.”
The Tweet said, “U.S. Senators Murphy & Blumenthal should be ashamed of themselves.” It includes video of television coverage of the Reyes murder. The 24-year-old woman, from New Rochelle, N.Y., was found in a suitcase Feb. 5 near Glenville Road. A former boyfriend, Javier Da Silva, has been charged with her death. A citizen of Portugal who also has a Venezuelan passport, he entered the country in 2017 from Venezuela, through an airport, and illegally overstayed his visa.
Reyes’ family members are immigrants, originally from Mexico.
The video supports the proposal by President Donald Trump to build a border wall with that country.
J.R. Romano, chairman of the Connecticut Republican Party, said the clip was meant to show a “real victim” of the what he called a border crisis.
“The point in highlighting these tragedies is to show our elected leaders there are real victims to this border crisis,” he said Friday.
Romano said he had agreed to take the video down after Reyes’ family complained about it.
“In the case of this family — who I never want to extend their sorrow — we’ve taken it down upon their request because I can’t even imagined what they’re going through,” Romano said.
Even though Da Silva came into the U.S. with a visa and overstayed it, Romano said his case still applies to the debate over building a border wall.
“What would stop someone after being deported from walking back into this country?” he said. “There are Democrats in our state General Assembly who call to de-fund (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement). That’s the entity responsible for chasing this criminal. ICE is responsible for overstaying visas.”
A call to Valerie Reyes’ mother, Norma Sanchez, was not immediately returned Friday.
The video uses coverage of the homicide investigation. It shows video news footage of news anchors saying Da Silva was in country illegally, and it plays a video of Norma Sanchez crying at vigil and saying, “He’s gonna pay for this.”
Stamford immigration attorney Philip E. Berns said the video is an attempt to demonize immigrants.
“It’s racist,” Berns told Greenwich Time. “This is just an example of that part of a group of Republicans — that are not among the many, many honorable Republicans — they might as well put on white robes and burn crosses. They’re effectively doing the same thing with words and actions.”
Berns pointed out that there’s a lower crime rate among immigrants in general and among undocumented immigrants.
“If you want to reduce crime, you’re better off going after criminals than immigrants,” he said. “It’s always been U.S. policy go after less the than 1 percent of immigrants who commit serious crimes first.”
According to the CATO Institute, undocumented immigrants have been responsible for about 2.7 percent of all murders from August 1955 through April 2010. During the same time period, undocumented immigrants made up about 4.6 percent of the U.S. population, meaning that group was underrepresented among murderers, per CATO.
The attorney said a border wall would not have kept Da Silva out of the country, because he flew into the U.S. with a visa.
“Trying to equate immigrants with criminals is a lie,” Berns said. “Being here without documentation isn’t crime, it’s a civil violation.”