AMHERST, Mass. (WWLP) – Monday marked two years since Lucio Perez sought sanctuary from deportation to Guatemala at a church in Amherst.
The first church bells in Amherst rang 733 times, once for each day Lucio Perez has spent in sanctuary. Perez told 22News, “I didn’t expect to be two years in this church. I didn’t even think it would be three or four months.”
But since 2017, weeks turned to months turned to years. Reverend Vicki Kemper said around 100 volunteers from the church, other faith communities, and just residents wanting to help have all been part of supporting Perez’s time in sanctuary. Many of them gathered to recognize his two years inside.
Perez has been living apart from his wife and kids. As far as we know, only leaving once, to undergo surgery at a hospital in Northampton. Reverend Kemper said while some might not agree with someone seeking sanctuary, churches were given the right to offer it.
“Our government has set aside three different kinds of places where immigrants in danger of deportation can take refuge and those are houses of worship, hospitals, and schools our government set that up, not us,” said Reverend Kemper.
Perez has a lawyer arguing his case, set to go in front of the second circuit court of appeals. Reverend Kemper said no one’s sure how long the process may take
“This whole process is really a journey of not knowing, and not having very much control at all,” Reverend Kemper told 22News.
But as Perez prays to remain in the United States, he said his faith helps keep his hope alive.
“But thanks to God, that God gives us the strength to keep going forward,” Perez told 22News.
Perez had been living in the United States for more than two decades and had three children, all of them U.S. citizens before he was set to be deported in 2017.