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One Year Later, The Fight To Return Pastor Max Back Home To Iowa Continues


It’s been one year since Pastor Max Villatoro was deported to Honduras and torn from his wife, four US citizen children, and Iowa home. Some deportation cases get local and state attention, but rarely do they receive the sort of national attention Pastor Max’s case managed to get.

Support for Pastor Max swelled following his early-morning arrest during an ICE operation. ICE claimed this sort of operation was meant to round up dangerous criminals, yet Pastor Max was arrested and put on the fast track to deportation due to a DUI stemming from nearly 20 years ago.

Hundreds of community members funneled their outrage and organized marches for his release. A beloved faith leader in his Iowa home, some 400 fellow faith and community leaders signed a letter to ICE to demand a stop to his deportation. And, advocates collected tens of thousands of signatures in his support, gaining the ear of national press.

The news of his arrest raised fury among immigration advocates, who argued that Pastor Max, a resident of his Iowa community for 20 years, was exactly the kind of person who should have been spared from deportation under the Obama Administration’s guidelines.

“If he can’t qualify as an exception, where there are clearly factors showing he’s not a threat to national security or public safety, who will qualify?” asked David Leopold, Pastor Max’s attorney. “That’s why this was an important test.”

While Pastor Max was tragically deported, efforts to return him back home have continued with a dedicated “Friends of Pastor Max” group, a testament to his important role within his community. Even Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton commented about his case last year, saying “For the life of me, I don’t understand why he was deported.”

There’s hope for Pastor Max’s case. Advocates scored a significant victory recently when a member of Congress introduced legislation to bring him home. And today, Pastor Max’s attorney and other advocates held briefings with members of Congress about his case, following a vigil in front of the White House on Sunday.

The ones most affected by Pastor Max’s deportation — his family — continue to have hope.

“We’re never going to give up,” said Gloria, Pastor Max’s wife. “Other families are suffering the same as us, and I think this is a voice that is being heard around the country. I know there is hope and that we’re never going to give up.”

She is among those who attended Pastor Max’s prayer vigil in front of the White House, and was at the briefings today.

“I’ve never had a case where there’s been such continued community involvement, and in this case, the public hasn’t gone away and is continuing the fight to get him back here and right the wrong,” Leopold commented.

Below, Leopold gives an update on Pastor Max’s case, his visits with Congressional members, and what others can do to help bring Pastor Max back home to Iowa.