Lucio Pérez Ortiz came to the U.S. as a 17-year-old new father from an indigenous agricultural town in Guatemala that had been traumatized by the civil war. He moved to Delaware where he worked in chicken processing. His wife joined him in 2001 and his eldest son Edvin Pérez González in 2015. Dora and Lucio had three more children, all U.S. citizens, and moved to Springfield, Massachusetts in 2008. In 2011, Lucio and Dora took the family to a Dunkin Donuts in West Hartford, CT, where he worked as a landscaper. After they both went inside to purchase drinks and the children waited in the car, Dora and Lucio were arrested for child abandonment. Though the charges were immediately dropped, Lucio’s case was referred to ICE.
Lucio applied for cancellation of removal based on his ten years in the U.S., his U.S. citizen children and his clean criminal record. His young lawyer was very inattentive to the case and did not obtain sufficient evidence to demonstrate continuous ten year presence in the U.S. She assured Lucio and Dora that the 3 U.S.-born children’s birth certificates would be sufficient evidence. However, at his 2012 trial Lucio was denied cancellation of removal due to inadequate proof of his continuous presence, especially for the period before the birth of his son Tony in September 2002. During the trial, the judge took the case paperwork into his hands and ripped it in half. Lucio’s lawyer appealed the case but then discontinued contact with the family, and the appeal was denied. With a new lawyer, Lucio submitted successful Stays of Removal each year from 2013-2017. In 2017 Lucio’s stay was denied, and his lawyer submitted a Motion to Reopen the case. However, Lucio was ordered to purchase a ticket to Guatemala and was placed on an ankle monitor.
Though Lucio attempted to win a Stay of Removal with new legal counsel before the deadline of the airplane ticket, it was unsuccessful. Lucio entered Sanctuary at First Church Amherst on October 18, 2017. Lucio’s lawyer continued to fight for his Motion to Reopen, but it was denied in April 2018. In the summer of 2018, following the Pereira vs. Sessions decision of the Supreme Court, Lucio’s attorney submitted a second Motion to Reopen in October 2018. The motion was based on the argument that Tony’s birth certificate was 9.5 years before the court hearing and would have improved his proof of presence had Pereira been in place. In May 2019, the BIA denied Lucio’s case after the Supreme Court’s decision in Mendoza overrode the 10-year determination. Lucio’s case is being appealed to the 2nd Circuit based on the interpretation of Pereira and his attorney is seeking a Stay from the 2nd Court while we wait for the case to be heard.
While in sanctuary, Lucio sees his family four times a week, despite the 30-mile distance between his home and the church. He teaches English classes, worships with both the English-speaking and Spanish-speaking congregations, and is a valued member of the Amherst community. He has 1,100 letters of support that were submitted to immigration officials in the past, and over 500 volunteers support Lucio’s sanctuary effort through rides, accompaniment and meal support.
Lucio has been in the U.S. for two decades, contributing to his community and making the world a better place. It is our hope that he will be able to stay.