Rev. Jose Landaverde and his church, St. Peter the Apostle Mission, have become a safe haven for an undocumented man and his 7-year-old daughter.
Lorenzo Solorzano Morales is facing deportation for a domestic battery charge arrest in 2011. According to Kane County Court and police records, he pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor offense a few months following the arrest. He was accused of pulling a woman’s hair during an argument.
Solorzano, 54, has lived in the U.S. for 30 years. He has two adult daughters, who were both born in the United States, and his wife is fighting cancer. He’s also a longtime member of the La Luz De Cristo Mission United Methodist Church in the city of Elgin in Illinois.
“Lorenzo came to us four days ago asking for sanctuary. The community knows our church offers an open heart and open arms to people suffering from Homeland Security (Department),” Landaverde told Fox News Latino.
A longtime immigration activist, Landaverde spoke at a 2013 congressional hearing on comprehensive immigration reform. Janet Napolitano testified minutes later, and Landaverde interrupted her.
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“You’re the devil,” he yelled. “You’re separating families.”
Landaverde told Fox News Latino that Solorzano will stay with him for between 3 to 6 months until his attorney can clarify his case with the Homeland Security Department.
“He is a person with a daughter and wife with cancer and family and he’s part of a community that’s supporting him. He’s showing us he’s a good Christian man with good values. He’s been working. He owns a small landscaping business. He pays taxes, and yes he made a mistake,”Landaverde said. He added, “His case is a misdemeanor. It isn’t a felony. We sometimes drive without a license. We’re U.S. citizens. We’re busy and we forget and police stop us, but we’re innocent until they declare us guilty. The case is now closed and it’s not a felony.”
Landaverde insists that if someone were to come to him asking for sanctuary, and the person is a drug dealer or murderer, he would call authorities and have him or her deported.
A church cannot offer actual legal protection from federal immigration officials. But, federal immigration officials have said that they will follow a 2011 policy to avoid entering schools, hospitals, churches, synagogues, mosques or other religious-based institutions to arrest people who are in the country illegally – the exception would involve national security or a threat of terrorism.
"He failed to depart as required, which created for him a final order of removal," Gail Montenegro, a spokeswoman with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said in an email to the Chicago Tribune.
"As an alien convicted of a significant misdemeanor and who has been issued a final order of removal ... (he) is an ICE enforcement priority."
Solorzano’s attorney, Juan Soliz, has asked the courts to allow temporary status for his client.
For now Solorzano and his daughter will stay in Landaverde’s church for as long as he and his daughter require it.
Soliz told the Chicago Tribune that Solorzano has exhausted all of his appeals. He has notified immigration officials of his client’s whereabouts, and he has been “relegated to this desperate position of seeking refuge in the church.”
Rebekah Sager is a writer/editor for Fox News Latino. She can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @rebekah_sager