Man in sanctuary at Oak Park church granted asylum

'Lalo' still being treated for cancer, but deportation threat gone

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By Tom Holmes

Contributing Reporter / Religion Blogger

Donal Eduardo Valiente Marroquin, a.k.a. Lalo, an undocumented immigrant who had been living in sanctuary at St. Christopher Church in Oak Park since last December, has been granted asylum and the U.S. government has declined to appeal the judge's decision, according to church officials.

The Rev. Eric Biddy, rector of St. Christopher's Episcopal Church where Lalo has been living since Dec. 13, 2017, reported the news in an email to Wednesday Journal.

"Lalo is still at St. Christopher's," Biddy said, "even though his legal status is now good, and there is no threat of deportation. He is still waiting until he can legally work.  And, his health situation is still bad -- he just had another surgery related to his cancer on April 4." 

Maria Torres, an organizer at PASO (Proyecto de Accion de los Suburbios del Oeste or the West Suburban Action Project) confirmed that Lalo now has legal status in the U.S. -- i.e. he is no longer an undocumented immigrant. He is also eligible for Medicaid and will be eligible to apply for a green card in a year. Five years after that, Lalo can apply for citizenship, Torres said.

Regarding Lalo's health, Torres said that the surgery he underwent early last week was to remove a cancerous tumor in his throat, which remained after a previous surgery. She said that 95 percent of it was removed, that he will began chemotherapy in a few weeks. Lalo will need to take medication for the rest of his life to address the effects of his surgeries.

Doctors diagnosed Lalo with throat and thyroid cancer shortly after he was detailed by immigration agents in California for entering the country without a visa. A refugee from Guatemala, Lalo said he fled the country after defying a gang that terrorizes the population there.

Biddy said that Lalo's medical situation is something St. Christopher's parishioners are rallying around, explaining that one of the things most congregations do well is taking care of the sick.

Torres said that the next task is to get Lalo into his own home.  

"Now," said Torres, "we at PASO are talking to him about finding a more stable and permanent living situation "

Although Lalo's story seems to be moving toward a happy ending, Torres cautioned against applying his experience to the majority of undocumented immigrants entering this country. 

"His is an exceptional case," Torres said. "Most undocumented immigrants are people who are never represented, and it's important for immigration procedures to change. It's inhumane for people coming into this country and not get appropriate medical treatment."

Torres commended Oak Park for upholding the values of the sanctuary movement.  

"Oak Park," she said, "has been very supportive of the work of welcoming the stranger and being open to immigrants.".

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