Yesterday, Iowa community members and local faith leaders delivered more than 25,000 signatures in support of Pastor Max Villatoro to regional ICE headquarters in Omaha.
Pastor Villatoro was arrested by immigration officials in the early morning hours of March 3rd and is now dangerously close to deportation and separation from his family, including his four U.S. citizen children. The news of his arrest has sparked national outcries, resulting in rallies in multiple cities in his support.
Pastor Villatoro was detained as a result of ICE’s “Cross Check.” ICE claims this operation is meant to round up convicted criminals, but because Pastor Villatoro was convicted of trying to obtain a driver’s license in 1999 so he could drive to work and one DUI from nearly 20 years ago, ICE now considers him a priority for deportation.
Under the Obama Administration’s prosecutorial discretion guidelines (which are still in effect even as last November’s immigration actions are being battled out in court), Pastor Villatoro shouldn’t be considered a threat to his community or national security. His arrest makes no sense, considering advocates have helped stop deportations similar to Pastor Villatoro’s case since well before the President’s immigration announcement.
But apparently, local ICE officials see no difference between a beloved Pastor and a convicted gang member.
“Max is a leader in his community doing good work,” an Iowa faith leader and mentor to Pastor Villatoro told the Des Moines Register.
In an immigration action town hall on MSNBC last month, President Obama pledged that immigration officials not adhering to the Administration’s prosecutorial discretion memo would face consequences.
If there were ever an example of ICE ignoring the Administration’s guidelines, it’s this one.
A round-up of a rally in support of Pastor Villatoro and petition delivery below.