Southwest Side construction worker released after 9 months in ICE detention

Jesus Alberto Lopez Gutierrez, 24, was released on bond last week from a detention center in Minnesota. He will now apply to renew his DACA protections.

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Jesus Alberto Lopez Gutierrez was redetained by ICE after being released from detention centers in March.

Jesus Alberto Lopez Gutierrez speaks to reporters Tuesday after spending nine months in four immigration detention centers across the Midwest.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times file

After spending nine months in four detention centers across the Midwest, a 24-year-old Southwest Side construction worker eligible for deportation protections under the DACA program is back home.

Jesus Alberto Lopez Gutierrez was released last week on $25,000 bond from a detention center in Minnesota after being arrested by immigration agents in May after a routine traffic stop in Iowa.

Lopez Gutierrez will now fight his deportation case from the outside and will reapply for a work permit under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

“I want to thank the community that made it possible for me to reunite with my family,” Lopez Gutierrez said in Spanish at a news conference Tuesday. “Being away from family and deprived of your freedom affects you mentally and physically. We’ve won this battle even though the war goes on.”

Lopez Gutierrez was 9 when he emigrated from Mexico to Chicago. He received a two-year work permit under DACA in 2013 but did not renew it.

ICE detained Lopez Gutierrez because his DACA protections expired in 2015. Because he’s never been convicted of a crime, Lopez Gutierrez is eligible to renew his DACA, which allows him to petition to be released from immigration detention.

Lopez Gutierrez petitioned ICE for his release in July, but the agency didn’t get back to him until Dec. 18, two days after his lawyers sued the government for not responding sooner.

“DACA is designed to help people like Jesus get released from immigration jail and get their DACA renewed when the government tries to deport them. That should’ve happened seven, eight, nine months ago — not last week,” said attorney Wally Hilke with Beyond Legal Aid.

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Miguel Lopez, brother of Jesus Alberto Lopez, left, and attorney Wally Hilke, talk to reporters, Tuesday, March 3, 2020.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Hilke said Lopez Gutierrez will file his DACA renewal later this week. “Please make sure to renew your DACA,” Lopez Gutierrez said. “I’ve learned from my mistakes the hard way.”

Lopez Gutierrez’s older brother, Miguel Lopez, led the way in rallying support for his release.

The elder Lopez, who’s an active member of local immigrant rights group Organized Communities Against Deportations, sat teary eyed next to his brother Tuesday.

“It’s taken me a while to process,” he said. “I’m just starting to get used to the fact that he’s back with us.”

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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