Amherst vigil to support Guatemalan immigrant Lucio Perez in advance of court hearing

  • Lucio Perez talks to the crowd with his family gathered behind him in front of First Church Amherst in celebration of his end to sanctuary on Saturday, March 13, 2021. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 5/24/2022 8:49:48 AM

AMHERST — A vigil to offer support and prayers for Lucio Perez, the Guatemalan immigrant who took sanctuary at the First Congregational Church for 3½ years to avoid deportation, takes place Thursday.

Members of the community are invited to the vigil, to be held from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the church at 165 Main St., and coming in advance of a hearing Perez has before the Hartford Immigration Court in June.

Hosted by First Church Amherst and the Interfaith Sanctuary and Solidarity Network, the vigil will include prayer led by Primer Iglesia of Amherst, music by local artists and community reflections.  

“We hope that the amazing community of people who supported Lucio in sanctuary will continue to show him support in this next phase of his struggle,” Russ Vernon-Jones, a member of the church’s leadership team, said in a statement.

Perez, who lives with his family in Springfield, entered sanctuary at the church in October 2017 to await a decision on an appeal of his immigration case, and left in March 2021 when he was granted a stay of removal.

Last month, a 6-3 Supreme Court decision in Niz-Chavez v. Garland allowed his immigration case to be reopened. Perez will be represented by attorney Glenn Formica.  

Perez, 41, has been in the United States since 1999, but was ordered to leave the country in the summer of 2017 because of a 2009 deportation order resulting from an interaction with police in West Hartford, Connecticut. That department charged him with child abandonment when he briefly entered a Dunkin’ Donuts, leaving his children in the car.

Perez issued a statement appreciating that his case is being reconsidered. “I am so grateful to my family and the wider community for the support they have given throughout this time,” Perez said.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.

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