GREENSBORO, NC – “This might be the last month I see my dad.”
A Greensboro firefighter is coming to terms with a harsh reality. After living in the United States for 22 years, his father, Nestor Marchi, will be deported to his native country of Brazil.
“I can help so many people who I have no idea who they are but I can’t help my dad. And that’s what hurts the most, just knowing that there might not be anything that I can possibly do,” said Andy Marchi, who’s been a firefighter since 2015.
Nestor, his wife and seven-year-old son came to America in 1994, with a very familiar story. He wanted to give his son and family a better life.
“No matter what is going to happen to my life, that was the goal of my life,” said Nestor.
The 59-year-old admitted, he overstayed his visa in 1994, but continued to work as an airplane mechanic and pay taxes. In 2006, a raid was conducted at his workplace by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. At the time Nestor, did not quality for asylum and did not have any family members that could sponsor his stay in the country. However, his attorney of ten years, Jeremy McKinney said, the Department of Homeland Security viewed Nestor as an asset.
“It was the Department of Homeland Security and ICE that chose to place him under an order of supervision and allow him to stay,” said McKinney. “It’s not a misdemeanor, it’s not a crime to overstay a visa.”
Under an order of supervision, Nestor stayed in the country under a work permit. He checked in with an ICE official to verify his address and make sure he doesn’t have a criminal record.
“And every year, I got the renewal to go back next year,” said Nestor.
This process allowed him to stay legally in the country for a decade. But, in April of 2017, his work permit request was denied. He was given the option to self-deport, meaning he could leave on his own without being taken into custody.
He’s purchased a plane ticket for June 14th.
A spokesperson with ICE said to News 2 in an email, “ICE will no longer exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement. All of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States.”
Nestor is concerned with leaving his family for a country without proper healthcare. Nestor has congenital heart failure.
“Every day I take 10, 12 medicines and that’s what’s keeping me alive,” Nestor explained. “I don’t have doctors, papers, work. 59 years old, what am I going to find? I don’t have work or have anything. Here in the United States, they save my life. I probably should be dead if I was anywhere else.”
Nestor’s attorney is in the process of trying to get Nestor to stay in the country long enough to secure healthcare in Brazil. Without adequate healthcare, Andy is afraid his father might not live long enough for him to come back to the country legally.
McKinney explained the path for Nestor to become a citizen was long.
“You can just decide to immigrate to the United States and get in line and be allowed to do it, it doesn’t work that way. It’s very difficult,” said McKinney.
The naturalization attorney explained Nestor was already married when he came to the country, so marrying a US citizen was out of the question to gain legal status. He also was not considered a refugee and did qualify for asylum. Nestor thought under a work permit, he could continue to stay in the country.
However, with his son Andy, there is now a path to citizenship.
“I will be able to sponsor my dad, however, if he goes back to Brazil, who knows if he’ll be alive by then. Just the way medical, just the way everything is down there,” said Andy.
Nestor’s only son recently married an American. Andy will be a permanent resident by mid-2017 and can officially become a US citizen in three years. However, if Nestor leaves the country, he will not be allowed to come back for another 10 years.
“To know my grandkids and stay with the family,” said Nestor. “I know that I did something wrong by overstaying my visa but everything else I tried to be the best America I can be. I paid taxes all my life. I did all the things every American citizen does.”
McKinney said he currently has over a dozen cases like Nestor’s and believes the focus should remain on deporting criminals.
“People like Nestor Marchi makes us safer. His son, literally makes us safer. He’s a first responder,” said McKinney.
Andy, Nestor and McKinney said they already reached out to lawmakers, including Mayor Nancy Vaughan, Senator Thom Tillis and Congressman Mark Walker to see they could help in any way.