Local church leaders to attend ICE check-in with undocumented Ohio man

CLEVELAND - Faith leaders and community members plan to attend an Immigration and Customs Enforcement check-in with an undocumented Ohio husband and father Wednesday afternoon. 

Manuel Gonzalez, his wife and their three children have lived in Columbus for most of the past 20 years. Two of their children are American citizens. One is undocumented. 

"I believe it is important that we stand in solidarity with all the undocumented individuals who are facing this kind of trauma," said Pastor John Lentz of Forest Hill Presbyterian Church. "What happens to one, happens to all. I need to stand and be there with Mr. Gonzalez." 

Gonzalez's legal team tells News 5 he applied for asylum in 2014. His attorney says he was targeted by cartels in Mexico and fears for his safety. 

RELATED: Local church leaders to attend ICE check-in with undocumented Ohio man

His wife, Edith Espinal, has been in a sanctuary at a Columbus church since early October 2017. She is among a handful of people in sanctuaries at places of worship. 

RELATED: Cleveland Heights church will allow woman facing deportation to seek sanctuary from the law

ICE spokesman Khaalid Walls says current ICE policy directs agency personnel to avoid conducting enforcement at sensitive locations, such as schools, places of worship and hospitals. 

Walls did not comment on Gonzalez's case. 

"I would tell ICE to please allow undocumented people who have been here for a long time, who have children, particularly American children, to be very low priority. There's no reason to separate families. That is inhumane, unfaithful and, I think, un-American," said Lentz. 

Organizers and supporters will gather at the Old Stone Church in Public Square at 12:15 p.m. before walking to the immigration court.

The hearing, which Gonzalez's attorney describes as preliminary, is at 1 p.m. 

 

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