Amherst church providing sanctuary to Guatemalan man facing deportation

Perez has been in the United States for almost 20 years

AMHERST, Mass. (WWLP) – An Amherst church announced on Wednesday that it is providing sanctuary to a Guatemalan man facing deportation.

The First Congregational Church in Amherst said in a news release that Lucio Perez, entered the church Wednesday evening after being scheduled for deportation on Thursday.

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“I am so thankful to First Congregational Church of Amherst for opening the doors to me,” said Perez in the news release. “I am grateful for the support of the community and my family. Together we are strong.”

Perez has been in the United States for almost 20 years and has three children who are U.S. citizens. His stay of removal was denied by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Leaders of the church on 165 Main Street in Amherst said Perez is welcome to live in the church building until his case is settled.

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“Our scriptures tell us to love our neighbors and love and care for the foreigners and marginalized persons in our midst, just as God does,” said the Rev. Vicki Kemper, Pastor of the United Church of Christ Congregation in the news release. “Lucio is our neighbor and our brother, and he and his family deserve justice and peace. We welcome him into our church with open hearts and fervent prayers.”

According to the news release, church members have transformed a meeting room into a bedroom for Perez, with a sitting area, microwave and small refrigerator.

Perez’s lawyers have filed a motion to reopen his original case for cancelation of his deportation.

The news release states that Perez will stay at the church while awaiting the next steps in his case.