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Federal immigration authorities are trying to deport the father of a young child with a rare form of cancer, according to his lawyer.
The man, 30-year-old Jesus Berrones, from Mexico, was asked to report to the Phoenix offices of Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Monday, according to Garrett Wilkes, a Phoenix immigration lawyer.
Berrones, a reupholsterer, lives in Phoenix and has been in the United States since he was about 18 months old, Wilkes told The Arizona Republic.
Federal immigration authorities want to reinstate a deportation order despite the stress his deportation would put the man’s young family, including a 5-year-old facing intensive chemotherapy for a rare form of leukemia, Wilkes said.
Berrones and his wife, a U.S. citizen, have five children and she is pregnant with their sixth, Wilkes said.
“It would be catastrophic in every literal and emotional sense of the word. This is not just a man who is a husband and a father, he is an example to these kids,” Wilkes said.
Rather than report to ICE, the man on Friday sought sanctuary inside a north Phoenix church.
The congregation of Shadow Rock United Church of Christ offered to allow the dad to live inside the church to protect him from being arrested and deported, Wilkes said.
In addition to Berrones, six immigrants facing deportation have lived at the same church since 2014, according to the Rev. Ken Heintzleman, the pastor.
ICE officials could not be immediately reached for comment.
Wilkes said Berrones has multiple re-entries on his record to rejoin his family in the U.S. because he has no close relatives in Mexico. He was given voluntary removals in 2006 and 2010 but returned illegally to the U.S. both times within two weeks, Wilkes said.
Berrones also has one mark on his record, a felony conviction for possession of fake driver’s license following a traffic stop in 2006. The conviction was set aside in 2016, Wilkes said.
Wilkes said the case shows the shift in policy under Trump administration which has greatly expanded deportation priorities. Under the Obama administration, ICE granted Berrones a stay of removal and allowed him to remain free with a work permit.
“The mindset now is, ‘Deport now, ask questions later,’” he said.
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