Amherst church hosts celebration for Lucio Perez 1 year after taking sanctuary

Hampshire County

This week marks the one year anniversary that an illegal immigrant took sanctuary inside an Amherst church.

Lucio Perez isn’t in jail, or back in his home country of Guatemala, as ICE officials ordered the illegal immigrant to do last summer. Instead, he’s been seeking sanctuary in the First Congregational Church in Amherst, for nearly a year.

To mark the moment this church took a huge leap of faith. 

Sunday, the church tolled their bells 361 times – each ring marking a day, this husband and father has been separated from his family. 

Margaret Sawyer told 22News, “It makes me think about each day. Some of the bell rings are loud and strong and positive. And some of them are more tentative. And I’ve been thinking how every single day has had its own flavor, I think for Lucio and his family.”

Perez has been in this country for nearly 20 years, but a 2009 encounter with police for child endangerment, caught the attention of ICE. According to Pastor Vicki Kemper, the case was dropped, but it was too late.

Pastor Kemper told 22News, “While it’s hard, especially for them, and especially for us, supporting them to imagine this going on a whole lot longer, we want them to know that we will be with them for as long as it takes.”

Through a translator, Perez told 22News, the separation has affected his children. “I tell them don’t lose hope. This problem will end one day. And that the most important thing is that I’m here to support them at every moment.”

Lucio’s lawyer is asking the Bureau of Immigration Appeals to reopen his case.

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