Local News

Chatham County pastor facing deportation

Posted August 25, 2010

A pastor who has spent 37 years in the United States is facing deportation to Mexico after immigration authorities arrested him because of a conviction 15 years ago.

Hector Villaneuva, 40, has a valid green card, his own parish, a wife, four children, two foster children he's in the process of adopting and a home in Chatham County.

Family and friends say he was living the American dream until immigration agents arrested him last week.

Villanueva had recently applied for U.S. citizenship, but he was denied after immigration officials discovered his conviction in California for commercial robbery.

That led to his arrest last week and his placement at the North Georgia Detention Center in Gainesville, Ga., where he is awaiting removal proceedings.

Villaneuva's only option under the law is to get a discretionary waiver from immigration court that allows him to stay because he has children and a job.

Under the law, however, an aggravated felony usually results in deportation.

Villanueva's wife says he was homeless at the time and was trying to cash a bad check when he was arrested. He pleaded guilty and served time in jail, where he started practicing Christianity.

Chatham County pastor facing deportation Chatham County pastor facing deportation

After he was released from jail, he attended ministry training to become an ordained minister.

"He has done many things that he is not proud of," Martha Villanueva said. "Now, instead of doing those things, he teaches other people that those paths are destructive."

She said the two moved to North Carolina from Los Angeles in 2004 to open a Hispanic Baptist church.

For the past two years, he has been the pastor of Iglesia Bautista la Roca in Raleigh. A month ago, he started another church in Siler City.

Pastor Steve Moore with Emmaus Baptist Church in Pittsboro said Villanueva has worked hard in recent years to reach the Hispanic community.

"We're very concerned for him and his family, as to what will happen to him. We love him here," Moore said. "He loves this community; he's put a lot into this community, this area, trying to reach people, to help people to better their lives."

Church members say they need him back. "We love him," Moore said. "We need him."


This story is closed for comments.

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  • sprrndy Aug 27, 2010

    I am glad to see that this issue has people talking, but what I am not glad to see is the rasist views that people still have. This is a good man who does not deserve this treatment from our goverment, he done his time for his crime and I know personally that he is a good person that helps Anybody he can, he has raised his children to be kind to others and christian. Not the first person who posts on here can say that noone in their family at some point came from another country, I myself have three grandparents that are 100% real american indian but I still have that one that was imported. This man does more good to our country than anything he ever did bad. He does not condone illegal activity or incourage it, he does not raise future felons, he only wants the best for everybody and tries to teach them word of God and the right path to be on, so if you dont know him keep your uneducated, rasists remarks to yourself or do us all a favor and deport yourself because real americans can d

  • whatusay Aug 27, 2010

    Rev.Betty.. The church agrees that laws are necessary and are usually for the good of the country. Are you saying we should have open borders and invite anyone and everyone into the US? Would that lower the standard of living for Americans or do you support the idea that all people should live in poverty? Are you saying give until you have nothing left to give?

    I am all for help others, but we can send food, clothing, and medical help to those in need while they stay in their own countries. I can hardly support my own family, much less invite unlimited numbers into my home and go bankrupt sooner.

  • wildcat Aug 27, 2010

    in 37 years you would think one would find time to become a citizen?

    They don't want to become legal. They want the freebies that they think they deserve. Even jobs are given to them when the American people cannot even get a decent job.

  • wildcat Aug 27, 2010

    If you are a Christian and attend church, ask your pastor about the exorbitant taxes he or she has to pay.
    Rev. Betty

    Its getting harder and harder to find true christians in the church. Even truthful ministers. So what if they have to pay higher taxes; look at the salary they take home.

  • Iworkforaliving Aug 27, 2010

    in 37 years you would think one would find time to become a citizen?

  • Rev. Betty Aug 27, 2010

    To MEP
    If you will go to your grocery store and look, you will see that we are already importing most of our fruits and vegetables from South and Central America. Very few of the produce in the groceries comes from the US. This is a fact.

    Also, when this guy presented himself for citizenship, he had been living as an adult, legally with a green card, for several decades in the US, paying taxes, and NOT taking advantage of public housing, free clinics, etc. but paying for all of these things just like any citizen would
    3. The law which now will not let him be a citizen was NOT in place when he committed this crime many, many, many years ago.

    I cannot believe the "Laws of the land" supercede anything that my God says in Matthew 5 - 'for inasmuch as you have done it unto the least of these, my brethern, you have done it unto me...' I would hate to meet my maker and say, "God, I could not feed or clothe or minister to the sick, because the United States said I could only help certai

  • Rev. Betty Aug 27, 2010

    to redapace:
    1. I am a pastor. All pastors pay taxes, even pastors who are here with green cards. As a matter of fact, we are considered self-employed by the government, so not only do we pay income taxes, but we have to pay ALL of the social security ourselves. It cannot be paid by our churches. So the 1/2 portion you get taken our and the 1/2 portion taken out by your employer is ALL paid by us.
    2. This gentleman was NOT here illegally. He had a legitimate green card. Also, he had a job that could not ordinarily be filled by a legal citizen.
    3. He did serve his time in the past. He did not get caught and THEN decide to turn into a pastor.

    Please, if you are going to comment, make sure you have knowledge about what you are saying. If you are a Christian and attend church, ask your pastor about the exorbitant taxes he or she has to pay.

  • whatusay Aug 27, 2010

    Aiding and abedding is ridiculous. Our own US Government is aiding and abedding illegals. They don't make them pay taxes, they give them welfare, they give them health care, and they give them an education. And don't forget, the US government will sue any state that tries to deport or arrest any illegal in this country.

  • whatusay Aug 27, 2010

    We make our own decisions while on this earth. God just looks and will judge later. We are in complete control of how our lives turn out. Break the laws of the land and there are consequences, like deportation or jail time. Start a church and start preaching does not erase this mans past.

  • jackcdneh1017 Aug 26, 2010

    @tarheelfan41 Sounds like you like to hire illegals on the cheap and hire other cheap workers to check their credentials. Are you seriously suggesting that children of illegals not go to school while here? Are you saying that kids should go hungry? Are you saying that just because a child is here because daddy is working illegally that the kids broken arm not be reset? Bottom line, if illegal immigrants could earn Zero money, they would not come here. Okay some would go to crime but then we have law enforcement to handle that and these are the people that should be deported. Easy sentence to be carried out. Send them back. Legitimate folks should be left alone. If the ones deported leave their children behind, should we let them starve and go without school? You need to stop looking at children as cattle and more like potentially wonderful human beings that they are. I say again: Illegals out. Legals treat with the same rights and respect due all of us.