NEWARK — The Union City grandfather who galvanized clergy leaders across the state — including the Archbishop of Newark — to fight his deportation, will be able to stay in the U.S. for at least another two months.
Immigration officials gave Catalino Guerrero a 60-day extension Friday morning as they review his request to stay his deportation order. The news came as 100 supporters rallied in his defense outside the Peter Rodino Federal building, chanting “let him stay.”
“I want all the people through this, to fight,” Guerrero, 59, told a crush of media reporters in Spanish as he sat inside Grace Church, visibly exhausted.
Guerrero, who was ordered deported back to Mexico in 2009, will have to report to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on May 22. His attorney, Cesar Martin Estela, said ICE is reviewing their request for a stay of removal that would let Guerrero remain in the country for six more months. ICE has previously granted Guerrero temporary stays of his deportation order, requiring he check in periodically.
“Catalino is still under a threat of deportation,” said Richard Morales, immigration policy director for PICO National Network, a network of faith-based groups. “What Catalino is going through should not be happening to anyone in this country now; this is wrong.”
Supporting himself on a cane, Guerrero walked into the immigration building on Broad Street shortly after 9 a.m. as supporters and his family waited outside in the snow.
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Cardinal Joseph Tobin, Archbishop of Newark, joined the throng of clergy members and advocates.
“It’s important to put a face on people,” Tobin told NJ Advance Media. “I can’t accompany the 11 million undocumented people in this country, what I hope to do is say look, they’ve got faces, they’ve got histories and there’s a lot of advantage to leaving them alone.”
“I hope President Trump is watching because Catalino is not a ‘bad hombre,’ he’s a good man,” Menendez said referring to the way Trump has characterized some undocumented immigrants. “If he can be deported then we truly are on the verge of mass deportations.”
Menendez said he was pleased with the 60-day extension but that the “peace of mind was only temporary.”
Guerrero has lived in the U.S. for more than 25 years and owns his home in Union County. He has four children and four grandchildren.
His granddaughter Elizabeth Perez, 7, cried as she waited for her grandfather to come out. She wore a hat that read “stay” in different colors.
“I don’t want my grandfather to leave because he is the only grandfather I have and he is very good to me,” she said as tears streamed down her face.
Estela said apart from the stay, Guerrero was applying for a U-Visa that allows undocumented immigrants who have been victims of crimes and who have helped authorities investigate receive permanent residency. Guerrero was a victim of a home invasion in 2007.
“We had to find a solution that provided him real relief from removal,” Estela said. “By going this route … we’ll hopefully stop reporting to ICE and get him his green card.”
Under what advocates have said was bad legal advice, Guerreo filed for asylum in 1992. His case was denied and in 2009 he was ordered deported. He was arrested by ICE in 2011 and granted a stay of removal and an order of supervision due to his poor health.
ICE spokesperson Lou Martinez said in a statement Thursday that Guerrero is “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.”
‘Low hanging fruit’
Early Friday morning, clergy members gathered at the Courtyard Marriott hotel before marching to the immigration building chanting “build communities, not a wall.”
“This is our place, this is our moment,” Rabbi Joel Abraham of Temple Sholom in Scotch Plains. He said Guerrero is “representing all sorts of people … We need to hear what needs to be fixed and we need to step up and fix it.”
Last month was Guerrero’s first check-in with ICE under the Trump Administration, who vowed as a centerpiece of his campaign to crack down in illegal immigration.
Guerrero’s supporters feared he would be deported when ICE asked him to bring his passport for his next meeting on March 10.
“I ask that you help me, I have my family here, with my granddaughters, my health is poor, I have heart problems, diabetes and high blood pressure,” Guerrero said last week on a call with reporters. “With all these worries and the appointments and all this stress it’s not good for my health and the nurses are concerned. I ask that you help me so I can stay in this country.”
Guerrero works as a delivery man and Uber driver.
“Everything that I’ve earned, everything that I’ve worked for, I’ve invested here,” he said.
The Department of Homeland Security issued guidelines last monthabout how it planed to implement Trump’s executive orders on immigration. The rules widen the net of who can be detained and deported — and include hiring 10,000 more ICE officers.
Among those prioritized for deportation are those who have prior orders of removal and who “in the judgment of an immigration officer, otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security,” one of the memos reads.
“Basically, this is low hanging fruit,” Morales of PICO National Network said of people like Guerrero. “It’s clear, it’s written in black and white that this administration wants to deport as many undocumented immigrants from this country.”