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Rabbis Organizing Rabbis - Deportation Defense Success Stories

Luis Lopez Acabal (AZ)
Luis Lopez Acabal and family



Catalino Guerrero (NJ)

Catalino Guerrero

After Catalino Guerrero, a 57 year old man who has lived in the United States since 1991 with his wife and four children, applied for asylum to the US in 2009, his application exposed him to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Though Catalino is in poor health – he suffered a stroke in 2011 – and has no family in Mexico, ICE took him from his New Jersey home in 2011 and detained him. He was only allowed to return to his family because he signed a document - which he couldn't read - saying he would voluntarily self-deport within a matter of months. His family and community helped him fight for a "stay of removal" successfully, but that just allowed him to delay what ICE has told him is his inevitable deportation. Catalino was told he must “voluntarily deport” by Thursday, August 28, 2014.

Hearing of the news of Catalino, Rabbis Organizing Rabbis sprang to action, motivated by their Jewish values and their frustration with Congress to pass immigration reform. The Torah tells more frequently than any other commandment that we should “love the stranger as ourselves,” and one of the tenets of Judaism is a devotion to all people regardless of belief, nationality, or familiarity. Backed by this commandment, the Reform Jewish community is committed to a humane immigration system, and we are called to help people like Catalino.

This August, eight New Jersey rabbis made calls ICE, and they also co-signed a letter to ICE Officer Peter Peralta. Rabbi Joel Abraham attended a press conference and joined Catalino for his final scheduled meeting at the ICE office before his required “voluntary deportation” date, and Rabbi Steve Kushner hosted a meeting for New Jersey rabbis interested in acting for justice together. There, they met Catalino, his wife, and the PICO organizer facilitating community involvement in Catalino’s case. On August 27, just one day before he was ordered for deportation, Catalino received a year-long stay of removal, largely thanks to the Reform rabbis who organized around their cause.


Pedro Hernandez-Ramirez (OH)

Pedro Hernandez-Ramirez and family

Pedro Hernandez-Ramirez has four citizen children (ages 24, 21, 16, and 5) with his citizen wife, Seleste. Pedro is not the biological father of the three eldest, but he considers them his children and they call him Dad. The oldest son, Juan, has cerebral palsy and is entirely dependent upon others to take care of his basic needs, and Pedro is the only one in the family who can lift Juan.

Pedro came to the United States from Mexico over 10 years ago in search of a job, and built his life with Seleste in Elyria, OH. Pedro has been deported four times in the last ten years, but he has returned each time, braving the dangers of the border to be with his family. After returning from his son’s daycare one day at the beginning of this year, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) mysteriously showed up at his home and arrested Pedro. He was issued an order of removal, and his first request for a stay of removal was denied.The New York Times covered Pedro’s caseas an example of the kind of immigrants who would likely be eligible for a reprieve if the US changed our deportation policy.

His lawyer resubmitted a request for a stay of removal, but was concerned it was a lost cause because of Pedro’s many returns to the US after deportations.

On September 19, 2014, thirteen rabbis called the ICE field office. The following week, ICE granted Pedro at least another year with his family in Ohio! His lawyer told us, “There is no question in my mind that the rabbis made a huge difference for Pedro.”

Yestel Velasquez (LA)

Read Yestel's story from Rabbi Seth Limmer at the CCAR Ravblog.