Community rallies to save Benson pastor from deportation
Posted July 2, 2014
Benson, N.C. — More than 200 people attended a vigil and marched through downtown Benson Wednesday night to save a local pastor from deportation.
For Lorena Siliezar, the effort was to help bring her husband home.
“They said we are coming for him. He has a retaining order for deportation,” she said through an interpreter.
Jose Armando Siliezar-Sevilla, 48, was arrested at his Benson home by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents on June 3 for lying on an application to adjust his immigration status.
Siliezar-Sevilla was convicted of drug possession with intent to sell in Los Angeles in 1993, and after serving more than two years in prison, was deported to Mexico. His supporters said he soon returned to the United States as a changed person, and has since been a religious mentor and community leader in Benson.
While completing an application for temporary protected status in July 2010, supporters said Siliezar-Sevilla was told by a lawyer to not mention his felony conviction. He is also accused of stating on an immigration application that he was never deported.
Siliezar-Sevilla is charged with alien registry fraud; fraud and misuse of visas, permits and other documents; and reentry of removed alien, according to a federal indictment. He is scheduled to be arraigned in federal court in Raleigh on August 18.
“He did break the law. We agree with that," said Mariela Lopez, his daughter. "But he deserves human rights, he does not deserve to be treated like an animal."
Siliezar-Sevilla is a diabetic who needs immediate medical attention, family members said. One of his toes was recently amputated, a public defender said.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Raleigh was unable to comment on Siliezar-Sevilla’s medical condition. A spokesperson for the Mecklenburg County jail, where Siliezar-Sevilla is being held, said inmates receive medical treatment around the clock.
But family and supporters say he needs outside treatment, not detention. They started an online petition to gain support for his release.
"It is an emergency. He is sick. He needs attention. He needs a family," Siliezar said.