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In the Darkness of Night, Pastor Max Villatoro May Have Been Deported

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 After ICE Director Saldana Coddles House Republican Restrictionists at Hearing, Her Agents Move to Deport Pastor Max

Based on a phone call from Pastor Max Villatoro to his lawyer late last night, we fear he was deported to his native Honduras either under cover of night or in the early morning hours today.   We have been unable to confirm this, and, thus far, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is refusing to respond to any inquiries.

According to David Leopold, Pastor Max’s attorney, “Max’s case is a test case for how the Administration’s enforcement priorities will be implemented by rank and file ICE  in the field and back in Washington.   If Max isn’t an exception to DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson’s new enforcement priorities, I can’t imagine who is.  And that’s a big deal because it affects how millions of undocumented people, with American families, will be treated by the Administration.  Will ICE Director Sarah Saldaña encourage her agents to engage in common sense enforcement—as President Obama promised—by focusing on felons, gang members and national security risks?  Or will ICE continue to wield their power to destroy more and more American families?  When President Obama announced his executive actions on immigration last year I thought the dark days of haphazard, chaotic ICE enforcement were behind us.  Today I fear the worst may be yet to come.”

The national and local support for Pastor Max—a father of four US citizen children and loving husband to a DACA-recipient, Gloria—has truly been unprecedented.  This is a man who has lived in the United States for decades, without incident for the last sixteen years, and touched countless lives through his ministering and pastoral care.  Just today, nearly 400 clergy members from across the country sent a letter to DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson and ICE Director Sarah Saldana asking for an emergency stop to Max’s deportation.  Other immigrants also detained under Operation Crosscheck remain in the United States today, raising the question of why DHS is so focused on deporting Max quickly.

After a disturbing performance at a House Government Oversight hearing yesterday, where ICE Director Sarah Saldana seemed to agree with restrictionist Republicans on numerous occasions, we fear that ICE is doing what it has always done — striking out on their own and ignoring the directives of DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson and President Barack Obama.

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, “If true that Max has been deported, our Government will have sent Max back to a country experiencing outrageous levels of violence, where his own family members have been victims of assaults and even death at the hands of thugs.  If true that Max has been deported, four U.S. Citizen children will have been left without a father; a wife in a loving marriage will have been made newly single; and the life of a man who has done everything possible to help America will have been shattered.  President Obama recently promised during a town hall in Miami that Secretary Johnson would ensure his enforcement priorities are fully implemented, and employees who resist will face consequences.  This raises an immediate question: who will face consequences for deporting a pastor and family man who is anything but a threat to America?”

Read more about Pastor Max’s case here.