IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) – There’s a new push to bring Pastor Max Villatoro back to the United States – a bill in Washington, D.C.
Thursday U.S. Congressman Dave Loebsack announced the bill “For the relief of Max Villatoro.” The bill would allow Villatoro to be issued “an immigrant visa or for adjustment of status to that of an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence.”
Rep. Loebsack is with Iowa’s Second District which encompasses Iowa City. That’s where Villatoro lived for many years.
Villatoro was the pastor at First Mennonite Church of Iowa City. He was deported to his native country of Honduras in March 2015. It was part of a national sweep of more than 2,000 illegal immigrants with criminal convictions.
Federal paperwork showed Villatoro illegally migrated to the U.S. in 1995. He then pleaded guilty in 1999 to drunken driving and tampering with records charges. In 2006, Homeland Security pursued deportation. Villatoro was arrested by immigration officials on his way to work March 3, 2015.
Since 1999, Villatoro married, had four kids and became a Mennonite pastor in Iowa City.
Villatoro’s impending deportation sparked several protests in Iowa City. Protestors said his case showed a flaw in the immigration system. They even delivered petitions to the Omaha Immigrations and Customs Enforcement offices calling for his release.
The Iowa City Federation of Labor passed a resolution Thursday commending Congressman Loebsack for sponsoring the bill.
Federation president Jesse Case said “Max contributed greatly to the local community, his church and his family. Ripping him from his family and community was wrong and it’s a breath of fresh air to have Congressman Loebsack work to keep the plight of Max alive and work for his return.”
At jgmimmigration.com, Gabe Ortiz writes: “As beloved faith leader in his Iowa City community for two decades, Pastor Max should not have been considered a high priority for removal under the immigration enforcement policies outlined in a November 2014 memo from Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Johnson.