AUSTIN — Today marks one month since Alirio Gámez publicly entered Sanctuary in a North Austin church in an attempt to stop his deportation and save his life. In that time, hundreds of community members have contacted immigration authorities to express support for him.
"I feel very glad and thankful for everyone who is giving me so much support. I can honestly tell you that I can't return to my country, because the moment I return, I'm at risk of losing my life. This petition for our campaign is vital to stop my deportation," Gámez said.
The Austin Sanctuary Network (ASN), which is supporting Gámez as he leads the campaign, has organized more than 600 people who have sent petitions and letters to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials Norma Lacey and Daniel Bible, asking them to use their discretion to stop his deportation. Individuals can sign the petition at AustinSanctuaryNetwork.org.
“Alirio cannot be torn away from our community,” said Arielle Lewis-Zavala, a non-religious member of the ASN. “We are enriched and made better by the relationships we are so lucky to have with members of our community, like Alirio. And we are willing to fight to keep them.”
The Austin Sanctuary Network and the #LetAlirioStay campaign aren’t stopping anytime soon. Their members will visit at least ten more church communities over the next month to call attention to his campaign and raise support.
The Austin Sanctuary Network, a coalition of more than 25 faith-based congregations and nonprofit organizations, has previously worked alongside three other immigrants in Sanctuary who were fighting to stay in the U.S. — Sulma Franco, and Hilda and Ivan Ramirez. All three were successful in the campaigns to stop their deportations.
“Sanctuary is a safe place, but it is not a home and Alirio deserves to be home,” said Claudia Muñoz, immigration programs director at Grassroots Leadership. “We know that ICE has the power to use their discretion in this or any other case. ICE must listen to the community and use their prosecutorial discretion before Alirio loses any more time to living with the uncertainty of what will happen to him.”
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Grassroots Leadership is an Austin, Texas-based national organization that works for a more just society where prison profiteering, mass incarceration, deportation and criminalization are things of the past.
Cristina Parker, firstname.lastname@example.org, 512-499-8111