DACA-eligible man sues ICE to release files on why he’s being detained

Jesus Alberto Lopez Gutierrez, 24, is eligible for DACA but remains in detention — a violation of ICE’s own rulebook, his lawyer argues.

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Miguel Lopez, speaks to members of the media about his younger brother Jesus Alberto Lopez Gutierrez, who faces deportation. Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020, in Chicago.

Miguel Lopez speaks to the media Tuesday about his younger brother Jesus Alberto Lopez Gutierrez, who faces deportation.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Attorneys for a 24-year-old West Elsdon construction worker on deportation row sued immigration authorities in federal court Tuesday for documents that could lead to the man’s release.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement got a hold of Jesus Alberto Lopez Gutierrez in May after police officers near Marshalltown, Iowa, pulled him over on his way back to Chicago from a camping trip with friends.

Lopez Gutierrez obtained a work permit in 2013 under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. The permit expired two years later but Lopez Gutierrez is eligible to re-apply to the program because he has no criminal convictions.

Under ICE’s protocols, Lopez Gutierrez’s DACA eligibility is enough for him to petition for release from detention, which he submitted in July. But ICE didn’t get back to him until Dec. 18 — two days after his lawyers filed a preliminary injunction calling for his release.

And when Lopez Gutierrez did hear back from ICE, they had denied his request. His lawyers are asking a federal judge to force ICE to turn over documents related to the denial.

“It’s important to know the who, what and when about this case. We need to know if ICE abandoned its own DACA procedures,” said Wally Hilke, one of two lawyers from Beyond Legal Aid representing Lopez Gutierrez.

A spokesperson for ICE decline to comment citing pending litigation.

In September, an immigration judge issued a deportation order against Lopez Gutierrez. His lawyers have appealed and expect to get a decision as soon as February.

“The bottom line is that he is eligible to renew his DACA. All he needs to renew his DACA is to be released from ICE custody. If he renews his DACA, he can’t be deported — even if a final order of removal is ordered against him,” Hilke said.

Lopez Gutierrez is being held at a county jail in southern Minnesota. His older brother, Miguel Lopez, said the 24-year-old is in high spirits and making friends.

“He knows we’re out here fighting for him, and he also knows we might lose,” Lopez said. “My brother writes poetry, so he’s been writing poetry for some of the men inside. He even wrote a poem for one of them to propose to his partner. She said yes.”

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.

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