Catalino Guerrero, 59, of Union City, New Jersey, was granted a 60-day extension in his deportation case by a judge in Newark on Friday. Guerrero surrendered himself as he was ordered but he did not come alone. The Archbishop of Newark, other members of the clergy and a U.S. senator marched to the federal building in support.
Guerrero, a grandfather of four, entered the U.S. illegally from Mexico more than 25 years ago. He owns his home, has no criminal record and has paid his taxes.
Cardinal Joseph Tobin, the head of New Jersey's largest Roman Catholic archdiocese, and New Jersey U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez were among those who rallied in support of Catalino Guerrero on Friday.
Guerrero "puts a face" to what is often treated as "statistics, or demons," Tobin said.
Menendez said he hopes Guerrero's case and others like it will hasten immigration reform.
"I hope President Trump is watching because Catalino Guerrero is not a 'bad hombre,'" Menendez said, referring to a characterization made by the president recently of people who would be targeted for deportation. "He is a good and decent man."
Guerrero applied for a work permit several years ago, but filled out a form incorrectly, they said.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials summoned Guerrero last month and told him to plan to surrender his passport on March 10, Guerrero's supporters said this week. He was seeking a year stay of removal, but that request was denied Friday.
An ICE spokesman said in an email Thursday that Guerrero, "a Mexican national unlawfully present, was ordered removed from the United States in 2009 by an immigration judge. Guerrero remains free from custody and must periodically report to ICE as a condition of his release."
Tobin has been critical of President Donald Trump's immigration policies. Last month, he called Trump's executive order temporarily banning immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries "misbegotten" and said it was "playing on irrational fears of people."
Tobin said lawmakers should focus on fixing immigration laws rather than on large-scale deportation.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has issued a steady stream of criticisms of Trump's restrictions on refugees and immigrants. Through Catholic Charities and other programs, American bishops consistently resettle the largest number of refugees annually in the U.S. and provide support nationwide for immigrants.
Other faith groups are mobilizing their congregations to fight Trump's policies, including a network of 37 Protestant and Orthodox denominations that work with the aid group Church World Service. Hundreds of houses of worship around the country have joined the sanctuary movement, which provides support or housing to people facing deportation.
Among others leading protests are U.S. Muslim and Jewish groups, including the Union for Reform Judaism, the largest American synagogue movement.
With the Associated Press