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ICE issues deportation stay for man taking refuge in Phoenix church


PHOENIX — Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued a deportation stay Monday for man who took refuge inside of a Phoenix church.

Garrett Wilkes, the attorney for Jesus Berrones, said his client was issued a one-year stay after his case made headlines. He will be required to check in regularly with ICE officials.

Related: Phoenix church offers sanctuary to man with deportation order

Berrones, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico who had twice been deported, sought refuge at Shadow Rock United Church of Christ near Thunderbird Road and Seventh Street on Friday as he was set to be removed from the country again.

Prior to the stay being issued, Berrones said he wanted to remain in the United States to help care for his 5-year-old son, who has leukemia.

“I want them to give me a last chance to stay with my family and to be here with them, to support them, to help them so I can have a place for them to live and to fix my papers and to be here in good status in the United States,” he said.

His lawyer, Garrett Wilkes, told KTAR News 92.3 FM that Berrones had been granted a yearlong stay of removal in 2016 by the federal government but the next application was denied.

Court documents showed Berrones had been arrested as a teenager in 2006 for having a fake ID. He voluntarily went back to Mexico but came back illegally a short time later.

He was arrested on illegal re-entry charges in 2016. Wilkes said that conviction was set aside.

Related: Arizona churches offer immigrants sanctuary

Berrones was brought to Arizona as a toddler by his parents and attended Phoenix schools.

His 24-year-old wife is an American citizen.

Berrones’ voluntary removal as an adult disqualified him for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, Wilkes said.

Pastor Ken Heintzelman said there are two ways to look at the situation.

“On the one hand, you can say he’s been deported twice,” he said. “That is illegal reentry into the country. I understand that language.

“I think another way of looking at it is to say, ‘Here’s a father that is determined to be with his family, to take care of his family and especially to be here for his child, who is struggling for his life with cancer.’”

Heintzelman said the church sees offering some people refuge as the right thing to do.

“Sometimes, there are higher laws, higher principles of compassion and love that more legalistic minds can’t quite get their heads wrapped around,” he said.

According to the ICE website, churches, schools and hospitals were considered “sensitive locations” and officials avoid making arrests at those places if possible.

Arrests can be made under three circumstances: imminent danger to life and/or property, other law enforcement actions led ICE to the location or ICE had received prior approval from a designated supervisory official.

KTAR News’ Griselda Zetino Kathy Cline contributed to this report.

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