Fourteen from Hampshire County arrested at deportation protest

  • Lucio Perez, second from left, and his son Tony, of Springfield are joined by UCC Minister Margaret Sawyer and Hampshire College Director of Spiritual Life Liza Neal, right, in leading about 140 supporters in a “Jericho Walk” encircling the Federal Building on Main Street in Springfield which houses the offices of Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Monday, October 16, 2017. Lucio Perez is facing deportation to Guatemala and supporters gathered Monday to call upon ICE to stay the deportation and to request that his case be reopened. GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • A Springfield Police officer speaks to Rabbi Justin David, left, of B’Nai Israel in Northampton, and the Rev. Peter Ives, former pastor of First Churches in Northampton, before arresting them Monday. At right, the Rev. Liza Neal, director of spiritual life at Hampshire College, is led away. GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Springfield Police officers prepare to arrest 18 activists seated outside the Federal Building on Main Street in Springfield at the offices of Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Monday, October 16, 2017. The non-violent action followed a larger protest by about 140 people calling upon ICE to grant Lucio Perez of Springfield a stay of deportation and to request that his case be reopened. GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Ruthy Woodring of Northampton, in custody of Springfield police, is led away from the Federal Building on Main Street in Springfield after being arrested with 17 others calling for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to grant Lucio Perez of Springfield a stay of deportation and request that his case be reopened. GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

Published: 10/16/2017 9:31:07 PM

SPRINGFIELD — In 2009, Lucio Perez and his family stopped at a Dunkin’ Donuts in West Hartford to pick up drinks. Perez and his wife ran into the store, briefly leaving their children in the car. When they returned, police had surrounded their vehicle.

Perez was charged with child abandonment, but the charge was soon dropped. But the encounter, as told by Perez’s lawyer, alerted U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to Perez’s presence in the country without legal status, and the agency began deportation proceedings against him.

Under the Obama administration, Perez’s clean criminal record meant he wasn’t a priority for immigration authorities; he was granted a stay of deportation so long as he checked in with the agency regularly.

But under President Donald Trump, cases like Perez’s have been made a priority, and in July he was denied another stay, lawyer Matt Cameron said. Immigration officials ordered him to purchase a ticket for Oct. 19 back to his native Guatemala, which he fled to escape violence and seek economic opportunity in 1999. After nearly 20 years in the United States, the Springfield resident now wears an electronic monitoring bracelet, and faces the possibility of being separated from his children and wife on Thursday.

On Monday morning, police arrested 18 demonstrators calling for Perez to be granted a stay of deportation by blocking the doors of the local Department of Homeland Security office in Springfield.

Most of those arrested on misdemeanor trespassing charges were from Northampton and Amherst, with one each from Hadley, Belchertown and Haydenville. They were among some 140 people who came to protest Perez’s deportation, chanting “Free Lucio!” as police handcuffed those engaged in civil disobedience.

Local religious leaders, community members and activists from the Pioneer Valley Workers Center and Massachusetts Jobs with Justice began the rally as a walk around the immigration office, meant to symbolize the biblical story of the Battle of Jericho when the Israelites marched seven times around the city before its walls crumbled.

“I’m about to be separated from my family,” Perez said in Spanish at the rally, thanking those gathered for their support. “I don’t wish on any father or mother to be separated from their kids.”

“Why my dad? He did a little small mistake,” his son, Tony, told the crowd through a megaphone. “Now this little problem got into a big mess. It’s really unfair for our father and us. We’re praying to God for my father to stay.”

Immigration crackdown

Perez’s struggle comes amid an immigration crackdown in the state, where ICE agents arrested 50 people last month during four days of nationwide raids. As many as eight may have been from western Massachusetts, according to immigrant advocates.

The operation, dubbed “Safe City,” was focused on so-called sanctuary cities, where ICE is barred from entering jails and prisons to interview those suspected of immigration violations, and where the agency’s requests to detain those arrested are not honored.

ICE did not immediately respond to a request for comment on this story and Perez’s case. The agency has not yet responded to a Sept. 29 Freedom of Information request from the Gazette asking for the names of all Massachusetts residents arrested during those September raids.

Hampshire College student Eduardo Samaniego, 25, came to Monday’s protest. An undocumented immigrant himself, he said the action showed that the local community is tired of seeing its neighbors deported.

“What I see is a lot of fear, a lot of uncertainty, a lot of doubts in the immigrant community,” Samaniego said of the recent deportations. “And the fear continues to increase.”

Samaniego was joined by a broad coalition of organizers, religious leaders and community members from the Pioneer Valley showing their support for Perez and his family.

“When activists, students and faith leaders come together, we are the majority of this country,” said Ghazah Avbasi, a doctoral student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “This is a powerful thing.”

“I’m here today because my grandparents were immigrants,” Sharin Alpert, of Shelburne Falls, said, describing how they came from what’s now Ukraine to the United States on forged documents to escape violence. “Immigrants are the backbone of this country.”

After marching around the building, stopping for speeches in seven places, those prepared to be arrested sat in front of the building’s door and locked arms.

“I’m risking arrest for Lucio because he’s a good man, a good Christian, and my heart breaks for his family,” Liza Neal, 44, an ordained United Church of Christ minister and the director of spiritual life at Hampshire College, said shortly before law enforcement put her in handcuffs and escorted her to a police van on Main Street.

“My child is 6, and I want her to live in a better world,” she added, tears welling in her eyes. “I think it’s important to stand up, and as a faith leader to say, ‘This is immoral.’”

Along with Neal, Springfield Police reported the following Hampshire County residents were arrested at the protest: Peter Blood, 71, of Amherst; Peter Ives, 75, of Northampton; Geoffrey Lobenstine, 74, of Belchertown; Justin David, 48, of Northampton; William Meyer, 26, of Hadley; Sydney Reyes-Beattie, 20, of Northampton; Patricia Deangelis, 71, of Amherst; Ruth Woodring, 47, of Florence; Patricia Lane, 71, of Amherst; Shelley Rosen, 23, of Northampton; Diana Sierra-Becerra, 28, of Northampton; Holly Richardson, 52, of Florence; Victoria Kaplan, 34, of Haydenville.

Cameron, Perez’s lawyer, said there is a pending request to reopen Perez’s case, and he just filed an emergency stay request with immigration officials. But, with Thursday’s booked flight from New York City looming, Cameron is unsure whether his client will get the chance to have his case reheard before then.

“All humanity and discretion has been stripped from our immigration system,” Cameron said, lamenting how many cases he has seen this year of immigrants like Perez, with no criminal background, being separated from their families. “It’s potentially thousands of families just like them across the country right now.”

Dusty Christensen can be reached at

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