Iowa City pastor's family, congregation hoping he won't be depor - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowa City pastor's family, congregation hoping he won't be deported

Posted: Updated:
  • KWWL.com LinksMore>>

  • Iowa City News

    Iowa City News

    Local news and information for Iowa City, Coralville, North Liberty, Solon, Tiffin, Swisher, Hills, Lone Tree, Oxford, University Heights, Shueyville and all of Johnson County and the surrounding area.More >>
    Local news and information for Iowa City, Coralville, North Liberty, Solon, Tiffin, Swisher, Hills, Lone Tree, Oxford, University Heights, Shueyville and all of Johnson County and the surrounding area.More >>
IOWA CITY (KWWL) -

A local pastor is facing deportation after he was arrested by immigration officers last week but his family - and congregation - is pleading for his release.

Immigration officials arrested Max Villatoro during a national operation called Operation Cross Check,aimed at finding criminals, many of whom are convicted felons. Villatoro has some driving offenses and a tampering with official records conviction -- an aggravated misdemeanor.

Gloria Villatoro says her husband is a good man, a loving father and husband, and her  family has been torn apart.

"They ask me for their father every day," said Gloria.

Max Villatoro is waiting. He's been living in Iowa for years but may soon be deported back to his home country, Honduras. His wife of fifteen years, Gloria, says when Max was arrested last week, he wasn't able to even say goodbye to his family.

Gloria's had a hard time explaining what's happening to the couple's four children.

"'She said mom is my dad deported yet? I said no. He's still waiting for us,'" said Gloria. "He's still waiting that God finish what he's doing and we're going to be together again and it's very hard."

Max and Gloria are pastors for Iglesia Torre Fuerte, which meets at an Iowa City church.

Max's arrest has been shocking for the congregation.

"I don't have to tell you but many people can tell you how Max is," said Gloria. "How Max has been doing such good work in this community."

His story, his arrest has caught the attention of thousands. They've been signing online petitions, holding rallies, all hoping Max will get to stay with his family.

"I'm just trying to stay strong and believe that God's in control of this situation," said Gloria.

We reached out to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to learn more about Villatoro's case and were sent the following statement:

“Max Villatoro was arrested March 3 by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) during a targeted enforcement operation. Mr. Villatoro has exhausted multiple avenues seeking relief from deportation and is currently pending removal from the United States. As a convicted criminal with an outstanding deportation order, Mr. Villatoro is an ICE enforcement priority.

ICE remains focused on smart, effective immigration enforcement that primarily prioritizes the removal of convicted criminal aliens. The agency exercises prosecutorial discretion, on a case-by-case basis, as necessary to focus resources on these priorities.”


Powered by Frankly