José Reyes is part of the increasing number of legal resident immigrants put in deportation proceedings for minor crimes committed in the past. Winning his right to stay in the U.S., a rarity in the post 9/11 era, cost him the custody of his daughters and his health.
José Reyes, a 48-year-old Dominican citizen and U.S. legal resident since 1991, was arrested for a local dispute on May 13 of 2009. Because of a drug possession misdemeanor offense he had in his record from 1997, and because under current laws any drug-related offense triggers deportation, he was taken from Rikers Island to Varick Detention Center and put in removal proceedings. While in detention and because of lack of medical care in the facility, his kidney disease deteriorated severely. He saved his life when a pro-bono attorney got him out so he could go to a hospital.
He would still face deportation for a year.
Thanks to his medical release, the work of two pro-bono lawyers and the closure of his 1997 criminal case, he won his right to remain in the U.S. in June of 2010.
Currently, health and financial difficulties keep him struggling, but he has regained the custody of his 7 and 8-year-old daughters, who had ended up in foster care when he was in detention.
Shot and produced by Almudena Toral