1,000 signatures reached
To: Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson
Bring back beloved Iowa pastor and community member Max Villatoro
As people of faith and supporters of the Villatoro family, we urge Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to bring Pastor Max Villatoro back to his family. Max is a devoted father, husband, pastor, and community leader. Bring him home to his family, community, and congregation today.
Why is this important?
Six months ago, it was with heavy hearts that we received word that Pastor Max Villatoro, a beloved father, husband, pastor, and community member was deported and had landed in Honduras.
Although we have mourned Pastor Max’s absence from his family, friends, and community, we will not give up. Our struggle to keep the Villatoro family together continues as we work to reunite Max with his family and community. Through generous donations, we have been able to send Max’s children to Honduras to visit their father and to support the family as they await Max’s return. Advocates in Iowa and DC continue to put pressure on government officials to reverse Max’s deportation order, but we can’t do it without you.
For six months, the Villatoro family has been forced to live thousands of miles apart, separated by our nation’s immoral and unjust immigration system. As people of faith, we cannot allow this tragic situation to go on. We must continue to tell Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson that six months is too long -- it’s time to bring Pastor Max home!
Because of our shameful immigration system, Max’s children have been left without a father. Gloria, his wife, has been left to support her family and raise her children by herself. And the community as a whole has been left to deal with the loss of a true leader. Max should never have been deported away from his family and community. The last six months have been too long -- let’s join together and bring Max home.
Thank you for continuing to stand with us.
– Tammy Alexander, Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office
and Karla Stoltzfus Detweiler, First Mennonite Church, Iowa City, Iowa
Pastor Max's Story:
Pastor Max was detained early in the morning on Tuesday, March 3, by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) as he stepped outside his family's home. He wasn’t given a chance to say goodbye to his wife and four U.S. citizen kids – Anthony, Edna, Angela, and Aileen.
Max is the pastor of the Iglesia Menonita Torre Fuerte (First Mennonite Church) in Iowa City. He has lived in the U.S. for more than 20 years. Max was originally targeted for deportation because of an immigration identification related charge from 1999. His detention and deportation is absolutely devastating to his family, his church and the community where he has been a leader for years.
Pastor Max is a model of what it means to be a servant leader in his community. He has worked for years to strengthen Iowa City and to care for his neighbors. Each day he demonstrates incredible compassion, faith and character.
In February, President Obama said that ICE officials would be held accountable for deporting individuals who qualify for relief. As a pastor, community leader and father of U.S. citizen children, Max clearly presents no public safety or security threat and therefore should qualify for relief through the President’s recent immigration executive order. And, even though a federal judge has temporarily delayed some of the President’s immigration actions, ICE guidelines state that immigrants like Max should not be a deportation priority. Max should not have been deported before he had a chance to qualify for relief.