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Advocates demand ICE release DACA-eligible Chicago man from detention

Jesus Alberto Lopez Gutierrez went on a camping trip to Iowa with his friends in May. He never came back home.

Immigration authorities are being accused of unjustly detaining a West Elsdon construction worker who is eligible for DACA protections against deportation.

Jesus Alberto Lopez Gutierrez, 24, was traveling through Iowa on his way home from a camping trip with friends in May when police officers stopped the vehicle and charged Lopez Gutierrez with marijuana possession.

The charges have been dropped but police transferred Lopez Gutierrez into the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement at a county jail in Marshalltown, Iowa.

Lopez Gutierrez has been behind bars ever since. He’s now suing ICE to let him go.

“There’s no reason why he should be detained,” Lopez Gutierrez’s lawyer Wally Hilke said at a news conference Monday.

A spokesperson for ICE, citing pending litigation, refused to answer questions about Lopez Gutierrez.

Lopez Gutierrez arrived in Chicago on a tourist visa in 2005 at age 9. Eight years later, he was granted residency and work permits under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, commonly known as DACA.

He graduated high school and helped financially support his parents and his grandmother, who has arthritis and osteoporosis.

Lopez Gutierrez’s DACA protections expired in 2015. The 24-year-old is eligible to renew because he has no criminal convictions on his record, but Citizenship and Immigration Services won’t consider his application as long as he’s being held by ICE.

The federal lawsuit filed in Chicago contends ICE has refused to follow the agency policy of reviewing Lopez Gutierrez’s DACA eligibility and potentially releasing him on an “alternative form of supervision.”

“The United States has reneged on its obligations to Mr. Gutierrez and thousands of other DACA recipients by illegally closing channels for DACA recipients in immigration detention to seek release to reapply to the program,” the lawsuit stated.

Carlos Ballesteros is a corps member of Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster Sun-Times coverage of Chicago’s South Side and West Side.