The arrest of a pastor during a routine appointment with an immigration officer has sparked protest and sent worry through Los Angeles’ Latino religious community, it was reported Tuesday.
Noe Carias, who leads an evangelical church near Echo Park, Iglesia Pentecostes Cristo la Roca de Poder, was first deported in 1993 after crossing illegally into the United States as a teenager, the Los Angeles Times reported. The Guatemala native then returned to the U.S. and ignored a second deportation order in 1995.
According to lawyer Noemi Ramirez, Carias, who is married to a U.S. citizen, had been granted two one-year stays in January 2015 and April 2016. Earlier this year, a third stay was denied, the Times reported.
At his immigration check-in Monday morning, Ramirez said, “they decided to say he’s removable because of his ’95 decision.” An official with the agency said more details on Carias’ case were not immediately available.
Carias was detained as his wife, Victoria Carias, was waiting in the lobby of the downtown building housing the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services field office, according to The Times. Victoria Carias said her husband had told her they would grab brunch after his appointment.
“He’s a good man, he’s a pastor, he’s been a good citizen,” Victoria Carias told The Times. “He’s never done anything wrong. The only thing he did was come here illegally.”
Wednesday will bes their 14th wedding anniversary.
According to Ramirez, Noe Carias, 42, has no criminal history.
After November’s presidential election, religious leaders in Los Angeles formed a network with immigration groups to support pastors facing deportation orders. Guillermo Torres of Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice connects evangelical Latino pastors with immigration attorneys. He told The Times that pastors already had met with and sent letters to immigration officials about Carias’ case.
“This case meets the criteria for (action) because it’s an evangelical pastor that poses no threat to our country, to our community,” Torres said, adding that situations like Carias’ can spread fear among Latino congregations.