Earlier today, MSNBC’s José Díaz-Balart featured immigration attorney David Leopold and his client Gloria Villatoro, whose husband Max Villatoro was deported by ICE to Honduras last week.
Pastor Max’s story caught national attention when he was arrested by ICE officials as his young U.S. citizen children slept nearby. Pastor Max’s attorney and advocates argued that as a faith leader and man who has lived in the U.S. for the last sixteen years without incident, Pastor Max should have fit within DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson’s new enforcement policies and not been a priority for deportation.
But despite a memo on his side — and unprecedented national and local support from more than 40,000 petition signers demanding a stop to his deportation — Pastor Max was torn from his family and Iowa community during the early morning Friday hours.
Pastor Max’s case was the first high-profile test of how rank-and-file ICE agents in the field would handle the new deportation priorities set forth by the Obama Administration in November 2014. And, by all accounts, ICE appeared to fail the test.
Pastor Max’s attorney Leopold tells Díaz-Balart:
“My question this morning goes to the director of ICE, Sarah Saldaña, who refused to read the memorandum, to read the executive actions that compel her and her agents to look at the whole man, to look at the whole picture. Max, needless to say, was not a security threat, was not a threat to the community, quite to the contrary, as you pointed out, he was a pillar to the community. So I’m scratching my head this morning, wondering if we even have a competent person running ICE. Sarah Saldaña really has to answer some questions.”
Saldaña had already been under fire from immigration advocates for recently agreeing with restrictionist Republicans that police should have to hold immigrants for ICE, even if they oppose doing so — she was forced to walk back the comment just hours later.
During a February immigration action town hall held by MSNBC and Telemundo, President Obama promised an audience member that any ICE agents who disregarded his new enforcement guidelines would face “consequences.” Now the question remains who just will be held accountable for this breakdown between ICE and the Administration.