Chicago man challenges deportation, saying it was ‘retaliation’ for speaking out against conditions in immigration detention

Jesus Alberto Lopez Gutierrez, of West Elsdon, is asking a federal judge to allow him back into the country and asking the government to issue a decision on his DACA renewal application.

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DACA recipient Jesus Alberto Lopez Gutierrez, speaks to reporters about his nine-month fight against being deported March 3, 2020.

DACA recipient Jesus Alberto Lopez Gutierrez, speaks to reporters about his nine-month fight against being deported March 3, 2020.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times file

A West Elsdon man who says he was deported as retaliation for speaking out about his immigration case is asking a federal judge to allow him to return to the U.S., according to court documents.

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Attorneys representing Jesus Alberto Lopez Gutierrez, who was deported in June to Mexico, argue he should have been allowed to stay in the U.S. and renew his application for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The program shields thousands of immigrants from deportation and allows them to lawfully work in the U.S.

Lopez Gutierrez’s DACA application was initially approved in 2013. He didn’t renew his status in 2015. His Chicago-based attorney, Wally Hilke, said Lopez Gutierrez still remains eligible to renew his DACA benefits that would allow him to stay in the U.S. As part of the recent filing in U.S. District Court, Lopez Gutierrez is seeking a decision from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services about his DACA renewal application.

Lopez Gutierrez, who goes by the nickname “Beto,” wasn’t able to to join a virtual news conference Wednesday about the recent court filing because of technical issues, but his supporters read a statement where he contends his deportation was a form of retaliation by the government.

He was deported in June, a day after he showed up for a “check in” with ICE in Iowa. His attorneys had been told Lopez Gutierrez would be allowed to return home pending his case. Instead, he was deported to Reynosa, a Mexican city along the U.S. border. Lopez Gutierrez, who had lived in Chicago since he was 9 years old, traveled to Guadalajara where his family had relatives.

“I’m far from my home and family when they need me the most during the pandemic,” Lopez Gutierrez said in the statement.

ICE did not immediately return requests for comment. USCIS declined to comment. An ICE spokesperson previously told the Sun-Times the detainment just before his deportation was because Lopez Gutierrez’s case appeal was dismissed by the Board of Immigration Appeal in April, and a petition to review that dismissal was denied by the U.S. Circuit of Appeals in May.

His immigration troubles started in May 2019 when he and his friends were stopped in Tiffin, Iowa, while driving home from a camping trip in Colorado. He was charged with possession of marijuana, a charge that was later dropped, and spent the next nine months in immigration custody, according to court records.

Last year, he filed a complaint in federal court against the government because of his detainment. In February, an immigration judge allowed Lopez Gutierrez to be released on bond pending his case.

Xanat Sobrevilla, an organizer with Organized Communities Against Deportations, said they believe he was deported during the June check-in because he had spoken out about the conditions inside the facilities he had been held by immigration. They also believe the amount of attention his immigration case garnered factored into why he was deported so quickly, Sobrevilla said.

“We want USCIS to address this atrocity, we want Beto home,” Sobrevilla said.

The legal challenge comes a day after the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced changes to the DACA program. The federal agency said it would reject any new applications, and it would require participants to renew every year.

Hilke said he didn’t think the recent changes will impact Gutierrez’s application for DACA renewal.

“We think his claim that he’s entitled to DACA, that he qualifies for it and that he should be back in Chicago is just as solid now as it was a week or even a year ago, which is when they should have approved his renewal to begin with,” Hilke said during the news conference.

The future of DACA has been in limbo for years. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the Trump administration did not properly end the program.

Elvia Malagón’s reporting on social justice and income inequality is made possible by a grant from the Chicago Community Trust.

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