High school student Walfred Urizar is being ?financially adopted? by Iowa WINS after his father, Elmer Urizar, was deported to Guatemala earlier this month following his arrest by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in May.
Elmer was one of 32 men arrested at their place of employment at MPC Enterprises on May 9. Since then, 24 have been released on bond while the others were deported back to their home countries.
Elmer was processed for deportation on Aug. 3, according to court documents. As of Aug. 9, he was no longer in the custody of ICE.
Walfred, who began calling himself orphaned not long after the arrest of his father, hopes to remain in the U.S. He has a hearing for asylum later in August. Representatives of Iowa Welcomes its Immigrant Neighbors (Iowa WINS) say they have no idea what will happen, but there is always hope that Walfred will be granted asylum.
Elmer began to seek asylum for his son after they moved to the U.S. because gangs were trying to use him to move drugs when they were living in Guatemala. When his father refused the gangs, they threatened Walfred?s life. Elmer did not have enough money to seek asylum for the both of them before he was arrested.
Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Mt. Pleasant, Trey Hegar, believes Elmer is in immediate danger with his deportation back to Guatemala. During such a turbulent time in Walfred?s life, Hegar said he and other members of the church are showing the 15-year-old unconditional love.
?We?ve got a network of some other young men and a couple of adult males who are listening to him and acknowledging where he is and the frustration and the fear,? Hegar said. ?We also have a couple of adopted grandmas who are just loving him and making sure he gets cookies.?
For now, members of Iowa WINS are trying to give Walfred as much stability as possible and will ?financially adopt? him, Hegar said.
Walfred will begin school at Mt. Pleasant Community High School this Thursday. He is currently living with a family from First Presbyterian Church, who he has been residing with for the last couple of months, Hegar said.
While Hegar doesn?t know exactly what it will look like to financially adopt Walfred, he said Iowa WINS will help cover the bills that arise for Walfred?s care such as food, additional utility expenses, clothes and other necessities.
?We want to make sure we?re helping him enough that he doesn?t feel like he has to work,? Hegar said. ?We?re telling him his job is to make good grades, play sports, do music, be a student,? he said, adding that it was ingrained in Walfred from a young age to work to support his family.
Iowa WINS has considered other options for Walfred as well including having a family adopt him legally or emancipation. Legal adoption, however, would take too long and Walfred would most likely be a legal adult by the time the paperwork was finalized.
Walfred?s mother stayed in Guatemala after Elmer and Walfred immigrated to the U.S. three years ago.
Elmer was expected to be released from detention at the Linn County Jail contingent upon conditions, according to court documents signed by a judge on June 19. However, on the day of his court proceedings on June 26, Elmer did not appear in U.S. District Court and he was issued an arrest warrant. Records found by the Quad City Times showed that Elmer had been moved to the Hardin County Jail.
It is unclear why Elmer was moved from the Linn County to Hardin County Jail.
Elmer was being held on criminal charges as a second time offender. He was ordered from the U.S. back in 2014 by an immigration official in Texas and was later removed. Elmer did not submit a request to re-enter the U.S.
Urizar?s lawyer, Alison Klare Guernsey of the University of Iowa College of Law, could not be reached for comment.