Iowa Pastor Deported Back to Honduras

Last weekend we reported on the case of Max Villatoro, an Iowa pastor who was picked up by Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) and was placed in deportation proceedings. Despite broad community support and calls to stop his deportation, reports have confirmed that Pastor Villatoro has been deported back to Honduras today.

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Villatoro’s attorney, David Leopold, tweeted the news as well:

Leopold also shared more thoughts on his blog.

This case served as the first high-profile test for the Department of Homeland Security’s guidelines on prosecutorial discretion. Announced by President Obama on November 2014, the same announcement that served as a launchpad for DACA+ and DAPA, the guidelines for prosecutorial discretion lay out the specific categories and priorities for who should be expedited for deportation.

These aliens should be removed unless they qualify for asylum or another form of relief under our laws or, unless, in the judgment of an ICE Field Office Director, CBP Sector Chief, CBP Director of Field Operations, USCIS District Director, or users Service Center Director , there are factors indicating the alien is not a threat to national security, border security, or public safety, and should not therefore be an enforcement priority.

However, ICE has disregarded all calls to stop Max’s deportation. And it has become clear, after ICE Director Sarah Saldaña’s testimony in front of the House Oversight Committee, that ICE is interested more than ever in destroying families.

Pastor Max leaves behind his wife Gloria and four U.S. citizen children. Is this the type of message that the Department of Homeland Security is trying to send to our communities? That a pastor who has committed himself to his church, community, state and this country should be deported? (Or even prioritized because of community support?)

This is the troubling part. The fact that cases like Max’s did not make ICE, DHS or the Obama administration blink. Please disregard 40,000 petition signatures and a letter signed by hundreds of Iowa faith leaders.

The immigrant community will not forget Max’s case, especially now that he has been deported to a country where he will undoubtedly be exposed to dangerous conditions. Nor will we forget Pablo Fabián Cabrera, who like Max, posed no threat to national, border or public safety. Yet, like Max, ICE sought to deport Pablo back to Ecuador as swiftly as possible.

What many of us ought to be asking ourselves is this: what kind of consequences await officers that disregard the established priorities for deportation?

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Juan Escalante is the Latino Rebels Tumblr editor. You can follow him @JuanSaaa.

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1 comments
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The problem is, rank-and-file ICE/CBP agents feel like they don't answer to President Obama or even the top DHS management team. They run the show like they own it, and their union, antagonistic to Obama from Day 1 in his office, encourages this behavior and covers it up for them. Nothing has changed much from INS days when every district was like a personal fiefdom of the district director.