An undocumented immigrant from El Salvador is now calling the Bethel African American Methodist Church in Boston's Jamaica Plain neighborhood home as he tries to avoid deportation.
The father of five is a factory worker who told church leaders his mission is to avoid separation from his family. It is a story that the congregation says hit home for them as they made their decision to house him. They say they agreed to give him shelter because they disagree with how he and other immigrants are being treated.
"As people of African descent, what we heard matches the things and the kinds of things that were said about our ancestors," associate minister Mariama White-Hammond said.
Church leaders believe they are the first African American church in the nation to offer sanctuary to someone who is living in the country illegally.
The church would not share details about his identity or the status of his legal battle in an effort to protect him. They are providing food and around the clock supervision for as long as he is staying at the church. But U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement identified the individual as Josue Jerson Martinez Rivera, a citizen of El Salvador who has a criminal record of misdemeanors.
A spokesman said over the summer, the ICE field office in Boston asked Martinez Rivera to comply with a judge's orders, but he failed to do so, and as a result, he is considered an ICE fugitive.
ICE does follow a sensitive locations policy, which states that ICE will generally not enforce immigration laws in sensitive locations, which include schools, hospitals and churches.