Undocumented dad caring for son with cancer speaks out after avoiding deportation: 'It felt great'

An undocumented dad said 'it felt great' to be back at home.

February 14, 2018, 9:36 AM

— -- For the first time in four days, Jesus Berrones woke up yesterday morning in his own bed, free from the worries of imminent deportation and being separated from his 5-year-old son who is battling leukemia.

The undocumented Arizona father, who had sought safe haven at his local church, said his son, Jayden, greeted him with a good-morning kiss and a request for his favorite breakfast.

"We had some pancakes," Berrones told ABC News, a day after the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service (ICE) reversed its order to deport him to Mexico and granted him a one-year stay.

PHOTO: Jayden Berrones, 5 years old, 2016.
Jayden Berrones, 5 years old, 2016.
Courtesy Sonia Berrones

"It felt great," the 30-year-old Berrones told ABC News. "Now, my son doesn't have to worry. He doesn't have to say, 'Mommy, when will we see daddy.'"

Berrones' immigration nightmare captured national attention after he was told on Thursday that his request to immigration authorities to extend his stay in the United States -- where he has lived since his parents illegally brought him here as a child -- was denied. He was ordered to surrender on Monday to be deported.

Instead of obeying the ICE order, Berrones sought refuge at the Shadow Rock United Church of Christ in Phoenix on Friday and stayed put as his attorney worked to win him a reprieve.

PHOTO: Jayden Berrones, 5 years old, battling Leukemia, 2017
Jayden Berrones, 5 years old, battling Leukemia, 2017
Courtesy Sonia Berrones

"It was something hard for me to be over there, unable to help my wife care for our son and our other kids," said Berrones, the father of five whose wife, Sonia, is pregnant.

He said he felt that going to the church was his only option.

"It felt like I was going to be in a safe place over there," he said.

Berrones, who since August has worked for an air conditioner installation company, was brought to the United States illegally in 1989 when he was about a year old from San Luis Potosi, Mexico, his lawyer, Garrett Wilkes, said.

He was previously deported, once after being taken into custody in 2006 when he got caught driving with a fake driver’s license, and another time in 2010 following traffic citation, his lawyer said. Both times, he illegally re-entered the United States to rejoin his family, the lawyer said.

PHOTO: Jesus and Sonia Berrones with their five children, January, 2018.
Jesus and Sonia Berrones with their five children, January, 2018.
Courtesy Sonia Berrones

In 2016, Berrones was granted a stay of removal for a full year. He then checked back in with ICE in the summer of 2017 and was told he was no longer a deportation priority and that it was unnecessary for him to refile for another extension, Wilkes said.

Following the election of President Donald Trump, Berrones was told by authorities that he was going to get deported, with no reasons specified, Wilkes said. His attorney immediately refiled for an extension, but it was denied on Thursday, prompting his stay at the church.

On Monday afternoon, Wilkes was sitting with Berrones at the church when he got a phone call from ICE and their prayers were answered.

ICE notified Wilkes that in "an exercise of discretion," it was granting Berrones a one-year stay of removal "on humanitarian grounds," the agency said in a statement Monday.

"After I got off the phone, I did a fist pump in the air and screamed," Wilkes told ABC News. "I was the first person to hug Jesus. It was a very emotional feeling."

Wilkes said Berrones has filed what's called an I-130 form for U.S. citizenship, a petition that permits U.S. citizens to sponsor immediate relatives for citizenship. Berrones' wife is a U.S. citizen and will be his sponsor.

Berrones said he received notification in the mail on Monday that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security had received his paperwork. The approval process which can take five to 12 months.

In the meantime, Berrones said he must check in with ICE every six months, and Wilkes said Berrones will petition for another stay once the one granted on Monday runs out. Wilkes said he plans to explore other avenues for Berrones to stay in the country, including seeking asylum.

Berrones said he's looking forward to going back to work on Wednesday, and helping his son, who is undergoing chemotherapy, win his battle against leukemia.

"I'm so happy because now I'm going to be able to be with my family and my wife," he said.

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