The undocumented father of a cancer-stricken 5-year-old boy will be allowed to stay in the U.S. and work for at least a year after taking refuge from immigration officials in an Arizona church.
Jesus Berrones says he was brought to the United States from Mexico as a toddler and has since married an American citizen with whom he has five children.
That’s why Berrones, 30, told CBS News he sneaked back into the U.S. after being deported twice, in 2006 and 2010, following an arrest for driving with a fake driver’s license.
“I’ve been here since I was a little kid, so I feel like I’m from here,” Berrones said. “I really don’t want to be deported because I don’t have life over there.”
And now Berrones has an even bigger reason to want to stay in the country where he’s spent most of his life: his son Jayden.
Jayden has leukemia and, in order to stay with the boy, Berrones took refuge in a Phoenix church as his deadline to turn himself in for deportation approached Monday.
Pastor Ken Heintzelman of the Shadow Rock United Church of Christ told CBS News he fully believes Berrones deserves to stay in the country.
“Here’s a man who crossed the desert,” Heintzelman said, referring to Berrones’ border crossing. “It took great risks in order to be unified with his family. He shouldn’t be prosecuted.”
On Monday, the family learned that, at least for now, Berrones can remain in the U.S.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has granted Berrones a stay and a one-year work permit.
While temporary, the decision came as a huge relief to Berrones, who told KPHO he hopes the stay will continue to be extended.
“This is my home,” he said. “I just want to support my family and work and have good status in the United States.”