Max Villatoro, a long time Iowa resident, is currently at the brink of deportation.
The Mennonite pastor, and father of four U.S. citizen children, was picked up by ICE last week as he headed to work early in the morning. Since then, the Iowa community has rallied behind Max and his family, ensuring that every effort is made to prevent the separation of the Villatoro family.
Does this scenario strike you as odd? Because it should.
After years of criticism over his deportation record, President Obama delivered a speech last November to launch the (now stalled) DACA+ and DAPA programs. In this very same speech, the President noted that his administration would seek to prioritize to keep families together. A point that was highlighted once again during a nationally televised town hall, where once again, the President told the American people that immigration officials would face consequences if they did not follow the established prosecutorial discretion guidelines. (However, DHS memos released the same day President Obama spoke to the nation last November would suggest otherwise.)
If this is the case made by the White House and President Obama, then why is Max Villatoro en route for deportation?
The truth comes on the heels of the recently executed “Operation Cross Check,” which targeted immigrants who have been convicted of “serious crimes” and primes them for deportation. It is true that Max has a few misdemeanors, however there are clear factors in Max’s case indicating that he is not a threat to national security, border security or public safety, and should not therefore be an enforcement priority.
Max has remained an active member in his community and his church—both formidable steps for an individual who is seeking to make amends with his past. His wife Gloria also affirms that Max’s past is in no way a reflection of the man that he is today. Max’s character, faith and commitment to his community are clear signs that he should not be a priority for removal.
If you are yet to be convinced, then let me show you the following.
The boxes pictured above contain over 25,000 signatures that have been collected and delivered to ICE—all in support of keeping Max with his family. Both the Iowa and faith community have mobilized to show their commitment to keeping families together.
As of right now, Max is still in detention awaiting deportation—away from the friends and family that eagerly await his return. Shouldn’t the Obama administration focus resources on individuals who pose a current threat to national security?
A campaign has been deployed to make calls to ICE supporting Max and asking for his release. Hopefully all of this effort will ensure that immigration enforcement can be carried out in a “smart [and] effective” manner, targeting serious threats to our communities, and not community leaders like Max.