Lucio Perez has been living inside the First Congregational Church in Amherst for almost six months.
The Guatemalan man took up sanctuary at the church in October to avoid deportation.
“I certainly don’t want to see his family split up he’s been a fine resident,” said Kathy McKay of Holyoke. “I see no reason for this fuss being made.”
Lucio Perez was unavailable to speak with us on Wednesday. He’s been staying in the basement of the church, but he regularly comes up here to the sanctuary for prayers and participation in mass.
The Pioneer Valley Workers Center in Northampton started a letter-writing campaign to push the Immigration Board of Appeals to grant him a stay of removal.
“Fighting deportation versus actually having a case open to think about what are the options to actually get status, to be able to get a work permit, get asylum,” said Andrea Schmid, Community Organizer for the Pioneer Valley Workers Center. “Reopening the case would change a lot of things.”
Schmid said they’ve received more than 500 letters from community members so far. They hope to have 1,000 when they hand deliver them to federal immigration officials next week.
Schmid said they will hold a rally on April 11 at the Department of Homeland Security office in Springfield where they will drop off the letters.