Jose Juan Federico Moreno Anguino is prepared to live in a South Side church for as long as it takes for immigration officials to halt deportation proceedings against him. The 34-year-old father of five -- a Zacatecas, Mexico native who has lived in Bolingbrook for 16 years -- declared sanctuary and moved into University Church Chicago on April 18.
Jose Juan Federico Moreno Anguino is prepared to live in a South Side church for as long as it takes for immigration officials to halt deportation proceedings against him.
The 34-year-old father of five -- a Zacatecas, Mexico native who has lived in southwest suburban Bolingbrook for 16 years -- declared sanctuary and moved into University Church Chicago on April 18.
"I'm focused on fighting for my family," Moreno said through a Spanish translator. "At the end of the day, this is on ICE. It's their prerogative. They have to use discretion to stop my deportation and allow me to stay with my family. My mindset is to continue to fight."
More than 100 people gathered for a candlelight vigil in honor of Moreno and his family Monday afternoon at the Hyde Park neighborhood church. Joined by his wife and American children, ages 2, 5, 9, 12 and 14, Moreno held back tears and joined in prayer with a number of faith leaders and local immigrant rights activists.
"This experience, it just reminds me of the strength of community and also the strength that God gives me and my family to be able to continue through this process that is difficult," Moreno said.
Moreno was convicted in July 2009 of aggravated DUI and subsequently placed into deportation proceedings, according to a statement from U.S. Immigration and Customs and Enforcement (ICE).
An immigration judge ordered him removed from the country on November 15, 2012, and the Board of Immigration Appeals dismissed Moreno's appeal on January 30, 2014, the agency said.
"Mr. Moreno-Anguino failed to depart the United States by April 15 as ordered by a federal immigration judge," ICE spokesman Shawn Neudauer said in the statement. "Since he did not depart the United States to Mexico, ICE considers him to be an immigration fugitive."
But arrests and enforcement actions do not occur at "sensitive locations," including churches and schools, unless "exigent circumstances" exist, such as a threat to national security, according to ICE policy.
For his part, Moreno admits that he made a mistake in 2009 and didn't have a driver's license at the time of the DUI, but also said that he "paid all of the consequences."
Moreno said he "paid the fees, went to classes and did everything" that was required of him in connection with the misdemeanor.
Rev. Julian DeShazier, senior pastor at University Church, said undocumented immigrants are disproportionately punished in the criminal justice system.
"All people have made mistakes," DeShazier said. "And when you make those mistakes, you should be able to go through the criminal justice process, you should have your punishment and after you pay that, you should be able to go home."
He referred to the deportations proceedings as unjust.
"Nobody's saying that Jose Juan shouldn't have a punishment," DeShazier said. "We're saying that punishment should be just like any other American citizen for us to be truly equal and free, and that's not the case. The fact is that, for millions of undocumented immigrants, if they make a mistake, they're treated sub-human."
Here's more from DeShazier and Moreno during Monday's candlelight vigil:
Until recently, Moreno worked at a furniture moving company and was the sole provider for his family. His wife, Berenice Alonzo, said she and their children are trying to visit Moreno at the church at least once a day.
"It's been hard. It's frustrating. There's difficult times," Alonzo said through a Spanish translator. "I feel like I've been put in the position to play both roles, just because he's not around in the same capacity that he was before or that he could be."
On the same day that Moreno was moving into University Church, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration.
Signed in November 2014, Obama's immigration orders seek to expand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative and create a new Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) program.
Under the pending DAPA program, qualified undocumented parents of U.S. citizen children who have resided in the country since January 1, 2010 would be shielded from deportation for three years. To obtain deferred action and work permits, eligible undocumented immigrants would have to pass a criminal background check and pay an application fee.
Alonzo said she would qualify for deferred action under the executive actions, if they are upheld. The immigration programs cannot move forward if the Supreme Court rules against Obama's administration or issues a 4-4 tied decision and, according to CNN, the court "appeared closely divided along ideological lines" on Monday.
Meanwhile, Moreno said he doesn't plan to leave University Church until ICE reviews his case again and exercises prosecutorial discretion.
"It's frustrating to be in the same building every day. It's difficult, but I'm happy to have the opportunity to keep on fighting to stay with my family," Moreno said, adding that he has his own room at the church, equipped with a bed, mini-fridge, microwave and "most importantly, the ability to see my family."
He said the idea of relocating his family to Mexico gives him "great pain," although Moreno and his wife have not decided whether the children would go with him if he had to leave.
"I think it's completely unfair that my children would be forced into such a situation. They were born here. This is their community. This is our community. This is our home," he said.
His wife and children are getting by through the help of extended family and a GoFundMe page.
"ICE's Chicago Field Office Director Ricardo Wong can use discretion to stop my deportation," Moreno said. "I'm asking him to use that discretion to stop my deportation for myself and my family."