The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency granted a temporary stay of removal to an undocumented father who has a pregnant wife and a 5-year-old child battling leukemia, CBS reported Tuesday, allowing the man to return to his home in Arizona.
Jesus Berrones — an immigrant who came to the country as a toddler from Mexico and has since been living in the United States — took sanctuary in a Phoenix area church last week after he was told to report to the ICE agency for deportation proceedings. On Monday, the agency granted Berrones a one-year stay of removal that prevents his deportation for at least that length of time.
“I feel like I am a free man, happy and so thankful with God that he granted this miracle,” Berrones said, as reported by the Arizona Republic. ICE spokesperson Yasmeen Pitts O’Keefe said the decision was made through an “exercise of discretion” on humanitarian grounds. Berrones will continue to stay in the agency’s Alternatives to Detention program, “which requires him to regularly check-in with the local ICE office,” Pitts O’Keefe said.
As an adult, Berrones married a U.S. citizen and together they take care of five children, two of whom are from a previous relationship. His 5-year-old son Jayden has leukemia which was diagnosed in 2016. Jayden has two more years left of treatment and needs to take chemotherapy pills several times a day that are too toxic for his pregnant wife to administer, according to the Arizona Republic.
Federal immigration authorities previously deported Berrones twice in 2006 and again in 2010 after getting caught with a fake driver’s license, CBS News reported, but each time he illegally reentered to reunite with his family. Last week, the ICE agency denied his latest attempt to stay in the country and ordered him to show up on Monday to begin his deportation proceedings. Instead, Berrones took sanctuary at the Shadow Rock United Church of Christ in Phoenix. ICE agents typically do not enter “sensitive” locations like places of worship, schools, and hospitals out of concern that doing so could disrupt the daily activities of those locations, unless they have prior approval from an appropriate supervisory official or in the event of exigent circumstances.
Stays of removal are generally granted up to two years in duration, but Pitts O’Keefe warned that “pursuing repeated stays is not a viable means for an alien to permanently postpone their required return to their country of origin.”
Berrones’ one-year stay of removal may be a temporary relief for the family, but it’s far from a permanent solution. If a congressional fix isn’t in the works by this time next year, Berrones’ problems could be compounded by the additional duty of taking care of a newborn. His lawyer Garrett Wilkes believes ICE reversed its decision because of the public outcry around his case. Still, Berrones is just one of many undocumented parents flagged by the ICE agency for imminent removal following the Trump administration’s crackdown on unauthorized immigration. Like many others caught in the deportation dragnet, Berrones has been in the country for decades, making a life for himself in spite of his undocumented status. Another parent Syed Ahmed Jamal, an immigrant from Bangladesh who lives in Kansas, similarly received a stay of removal by the Board of Immigration Appeals this week. ICE agents previously detained Jamal, an adjunct professor, in his front yard as he got his kids ready for school.