The Trump administration's crackdown on illegal immigration has lately started taking heat for unfairly targeting certain people — like loving parents and successful doctors who have been in the country for decades This time, people are outraged about the potential deportation of Jesus Berrones, a father of a 5-year-old cancer patient.
Berrones, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico, arrived in the U.S. in 1989, when he was only one and a half years old. Now, he's the father of five children, and he and his wife Sonia are awaiting another child. Sonia and all of his children are American citizens, and one of his young sons has been fighting leukemia since 2016.
The Trump administration has made it a point to crack down on illegal immigration wherever possible, often citing "immigrant crime" as the reason behind the push. Previous administrations tended to ignore undocumented immigrants with a clean criminal record, but Immigrations and Customs Enforcement has been going a different direction under the Trump administration.
Berrones had been deported once in the past, when he was caught driving without a license in 2006. The Huffington Post reports that after that, he re-entered the U.S. twice without documentation in order to be with his family. ICE apprehended him again in 2016, but they granted him a stay of deportation so that he could be in the U.S. to take care of his sick child.
Undocumented immigrants who learn that they have become a target for deportation can apply for a so-called stay of deportation, which effectively delays their removal date for any number of reasons. ICE makes the decision of whether to grant these stays according to their own discretion, and parents of sick children frequently become recipients. Berrones, in this case, was not so lucky — despite the fact that he does indeed have a sick child, and his wife says that he is the family's sole earner.
“He’s a hard-working man,” Sonia Berrones said to the Huffington Post. “We’re scared. The kids will ask me: ‘Where’s Daddy?’”
Berrones' lawyer, Garrett Wilkes, also told the Huffington Post that ICE had initially told Berrones that he was not a priority for deportation when his first stay of deportation expired in 2017. Only in January 2018 did he receive another deportation notice, though, and ICE then denied the request for a stay that he submitted after that. Now, Berrones has taken refuge in a so-called "sanctuary church," a church that has designated itself as willing to aid undocumented immigrants who are fearing deportation.
The church that Berrones chose in particular was Shadow Rock United Church of Christ in Phoenix, which has made it clear that they will welcome undocumented immigrants through their doors whatever the situation, like many other places of worship around the country.
“We’re just fulfilling our mission to provide a safe place for people, to keep families together,” said Rev. Ken Heintzelman of Shadow Rock, speaking with the Huffington Post. “We think the immigration policy and its enforcement is unjust.”
Berrones has no plans of leaving the church until his situation is resolved in one way or another. There is still the potential that ICE could change their decision and grant him a stay, but Berrones' lawyer is also investigating other legal options, according to the Huffington Post. One of these could hinge on his interaction with the Department of Homeland Security back when he was deported in 2006, because Berrones and his lawyer claim that he was not allowed to appear before an immigration judge prior to his 2006 deportation. Wilkes could potentially file a petition to reconsider Berrones' case based on that. For now, though, the situation is still very much in the air. While Berrones is still very much in the same country as his wife and children, living at a sanctuary church does not allow him the freedom that he would need to truly take care of his sick son and provide for his family.