Immigration and Customs Enforcement plans to deport an undocumented man from Mexico whose child is battling cancer.
On Thursday, ICE denied an extension to remain in the U.S. for 30-year-old Jesus Berrones, who lives in Arizona with his pregnant wife and five children. The immigration agency ordered Berrones to appear on Monday to be deported, according to his lawyer Garrett Wilkes.
Berrones has been living in the U.S. since he was 1½, when his parents brought him here in 1989, according to his wife, Sonia. In 2006, at age 19, Berrones was caught driving with a fake license and deported to Mexico. He then twice re-entered the country unlawfully to rejoin his family.
In 2016, ICE granted Berrones a stay of removal based on his son’s illness. Even when it has grounds for deportation, the agency can use its discretion to grant stays and has commonly done so in the case of individuals caring for a sick child.
Last year, under the new Trump administration, Berrones went to ICE to refile a stay, and officials told him it was not necessary because he was no longer a deportation priority, Wilkes said. But in January, Berrones got a notice from ICE that he would be deported. The lawyer filed another request for a stay, but it was recently denied.
Berrones’ 5-year-old son has been battling leukemia since 2016 and is undergoing chemotherapy. Berrones is the family’s sole breadwinner.
“He’s a hard-working man,” Sonia Berrones, who is a U.S. citizen, told HuffPost on Friday, in tears. “We’re scared. The kids will ask me: ‘Where’s Daddy?’”
HuffPost reached out to ICE for comment, but did not receive a response by early Saturday.
On Friday, Berrones took refuge at Shadow Rock United Church of Christ in Phoenix, which is a “sanctuary church,” according to Wilkes. The church is one of hundreds of congregations nationwide that have welcomed immigrants facing deportation to live in their church until they are no longer under threat. ICE has designated churches as “sensitive” places to avoid when carrying out arrests.
“We’re just fulfilling our mission to provide a safe place for people, to keep families together,” Shadow Rock’s Rev. Ken Heintzelman told HuffPost on Friday, when asked about providing sanctuary for Berrones. “We think the immigration policy and its enforcement is unjust.”
The Trump administration has made it a priority to crack down on illegal immigration. ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan said in June that undocumented immigrants should “look over [their] shoulder.”
Berrones plans to remain at the church until ICE grants a stay or Wilkes is able to find a legal resolution. The lawyer is considering filing a petition that argues Berrones was not granted the opportunity to go before an immigration judge when he was first deported in 2006.