By Friends of Pastor Max http://www.friendsofpastormax.org
Contact: Shana Peachey Boshart 319-936-5905 firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo caption: On the one-year anniversary of his deportation, supporters of Pastor Max Villatoro visited officials in Washington D.C. Left to right: Tammy Alexander of Mennonite Central Committee, Attorney David Leopold, Gloria Villatoro, Shana Peachey Boshart and David Boshart of Central Plains Mennonite Conference, and Dave Sickles of Friends of Pastor Max.
One year after his deportation, Friends of Pastor Max press officials in Washington, DC for his return
Friends of Pastor Max and Gloria Villatoro say they are hopeful following meetings in Washington, D.C., March 20 and 21, the one-year anniversary of the deportation of Pastor Max Villatoro.
When he was deported on March 20 of last year, Max Villatoro was co-pastor with his wife Gloria at Iglesia Torre Fuerte, a Central Plains Mennonite Conference congregation in Iowa City. Villatoro was licensed for ministry by this conference in 2012, and conference leaders had been working to gain legal status for Max. Two members of the delegation to Washington D.C., David Boshart and Shana Peachey Boshart, are Central Plains conference ministers.
With the help of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Washington Office and Church World Service, the delegation held a prayer service in front of the White House on Sunday afternoon and on Monday held briefings for the House and Senate, visited congressional offices, and had an informal, off-the-record exchange of views with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials.
“Having met face-to-face with immigration policy officials in Washington, I became newly aware of the urgency of our situation,” reported David Boshart, executive conference minister for Central Plains Mennonite Conference. “The contacts we’ve made in the federal government could all change when the Obama administration ends, and we may then find ourselves starting over building bridges to the people who can bring Max home.”
“This trip reinforced for us that the key to helping the Villatoros is keeping Max’s story in the public eye,” commented Shana Boshart, also a conference minister for Central Plains Mennonite Conference. “There are folks in the government, the press and the public who see Max’s case as an important example of what is broken and needs to be fixed in the immigration system.”
Villatoro’s lawyer, David Leopold, repeated many times throughout the day, “I’ve never had a case where there’s been such continued community involvement. In this case, the public hasn’t gone away and is continuing the fight to get him back here and right the wrong.”
“At the briefings, our panel members gave a concise presentation of Max’s story and what we need from our legislators,” said Shana Peachey Boshart of Friends of Pastor Max. “David Boshart gave the opening comments and introduced the panel. Gloria Villatoro shared what it has been like for her family to have husband and father taken from them; David Leopold shared the legal framework for Max’s plight. Tammy Alexander of MCC Washington Office wrapped up the briefing with a plea to legislators to hold DHS and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) accountable to their own policies and to press for a review of Pastor Max’s case.”
One disappointment for the delegation was the absence of any legislative staffers at the
Senate briefing. Fortunately, the delegation had scheduled visits with Senate staff. “Senator Grassley and Senator Ernst both sent staffers to meet with us. They apologized for missing our briefing, saying they hadn’t learned about it in time,” explained Peachey Boshart, “This was in spite of the fact that many supporters had sent them email invitations. In any case, they were very polite and seemed interested in what we had to say.”
The delegation briefed Grassley and Ernst staff on the November 20, 2014 DHS memo which requires ICE to make deportation arrests on a case-by-case basis according to specific enforcement priorities.
“We pointed out that Pastor Max is a clear example of a person who did not pose a security risk. We asked that our senators hold ICE and DHS accountable to this policy," stated Peachey Boshart.
Dave Sickles of Friends of Pastor Max gave them a copy of the private bill (H.R. 4261) put forth by Representative Dave Loebsack calling for Max’s return, and told the staffers it is his “wild hope” that our Iowa senators would sign on as co-sponsors.
“We are grateful to the staff at Mennonite Central Committee and Church World Service for their financial support and their network of contacts that made this trip possible,” said David Boshart.