Elgin man facing deportation seeks refuge in West Chicago church

A Mexican man facing deportation is seeking refuge with his wife and daughter in a newly opened West Chicago church.

Roughly two dozen supporters rallied Thursday around Lorenzo Solorzano-Morales of Elgin during a news conference at Faith Life Hope Mission and St. Peter the Apostle Mission at 900 E. Roosevelt Road.

Religious leaders and activists spoke against deportation practices and the political leaders who support them. They also said prayers in Spanish for Solorzano-Morales and his family.

"These deportations are degrading to our community," said Cristobal Cavazos of Immigrant Solidarity DuPage. "We call on every one of our representatives, our mayors and our congressmen to take action to suspend this deportation."

Solorzano-Morales, 54, originally is from the Mexican state of Morelos and has been in the U.S. for about 30 years. The Elgin man has worked for more than two decades as a landscaper and has three children who are U.S. citizens, including two adult children and a 7-year-old daughter. His wife, Margarita, has cancer.

"We are excited that the community in DuPage is coming together supporting Lorenzo, and more importantly that the church is giving refuge to someone in need," said Solorzano-Morales' lawyer, Juan Soliz.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has a policy that states enforcement actions do not occur, and are not focused on, sensitive locations such as schools or churches. There are a few exceptions, but Soliz said he has never heard of ICE coming into a church to deport someone.

ICE released a statement saying removal proceedings for Solorzano-Morales began after he was convicted of domestic battery in Kane County in January 2012. The Chicago Tribune, citing county and police records, reported he was arrested in November 2011, accused of pulling a woman's hair during an argument in South Elgin, then pleaded guilty months later to the misdemeanor charge.

Soliz said Solorzano-Morales applied for a cancellation of the removal but was denied. A federal immigration judge gave him the option to voluntarily leave in October 2014. Again, Solorzano-Morales filed an appeal, but that was denied in February.

"He could have applied to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, but he didn't, so all his appeals have been exhausted," Soliz said. "Now, the only thing that can happen is Immigration can intervene and on their discretion, try to help him out, which is what we are going to be seeking."

On Monday, Solorzano-Morales sought help from the Avanza Law Group, which has an office in the West Chicago strip mall where the church is. He has been staying in the church since then, and he could be there awhile.

Soliz said there have been several similar cases in Cook County where people facing deportation sought refuge in churches for up to two years.

"We recognize there are laws that prohibit taking in someone who has an order for deportation against them," Soliz said. "We don't want to be accused of hiding him here. We wanted to make it clear to ICE and to the public and to the world that we are only exercising our calling, our Christian obligation, to help those in need. We're giving him sanctuary."

Ruben Rivera, pastor of Solorzano-Morales' church, La Luz De Cristo in Elgin, said he understands the deportation of criminals but believes Solorzano-Morales does not fall into that category.

"This family, they are not criminals. These are people that serve the community and serve the church," he said. "It's time to stop only praying. It's time to stand up and support these families that are being deported."

  The Rev. Jose Landaverde leads a news conference about Lorenzo Solorzano-Morales' choice to seek sanctuary from deportation in the Faith Life and Hope Mission and St. Peter the Apostle Mission in West Chicago. Mark Black/
  Lorenzo Solorzano-Morales wraps his arms around his daughter Kimberly, 7, during a news conference Thursday. Solorzano-Morales faces deportation but is seeking refuge in a West Chicago church. Mark Black/
  Lorenzo Solorzano-Morales holds his wife, Margarita Lorenzo, and 7-year-old daughter, Kimberly, during a news conference Thursday at a West Chicago church where he is seeking sanctuary from deportation. Mark Black/
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