NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Mexican man who has lived in the United States illegally for 26 years won a two-month reprieve from deportation on Friday after a Roman Catholic cardinal in New Jersey and other faith leaders rallied behind him.
Catalino Guerrero, a 59-year-old grandfather who lives in Union City, New Jersey, is fighting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to stay in the country after facing intensified deportation efforts in the months since President Donald Trump took office, the archbishop of Newark said in a statement.
Guerrero asked for a year's stay of removal at a hearing in Newark on Friday. Instead of being detained and deported immediately, Guerrero was released to his family until a new hearing scheduled for May 22, Cesar Martin Estela, his attorney, said.
If the stay is granted, Estela said the next step would be filing a visa application for Guerrero and then for permanent residency.
Trump campaigned on a promise to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and enact sweeping deportation measures. He recently broadened the categories of people who could be targeted for immigration enforcement to anyone who had been charged with a crime.
Guerrero, who fled crime and lack of employment opportunities in his native Puebla, Mexico in 1991, has remained employed and law-abiding during his time in the United States, the archdiocese said.
Guerrero, who had long sought a path to U.S. citizenship, was contacted by immigration officials in February and ordered to surrender his passport in March, the archdiocese said.
U.S. immigration officials could not immediately be reached for comment. Guerrero also could not be reached.
Archbishop Joseph Tobin, who was appointed a cardinal by Pope Francis in January, has rallied in support of Guerrero. Tobin and other local religious leaders, including an Episcopal church reverend and a rabbi, said Guerrero was unfairly targeted.
"As faith leaders, we are called to recognize and underscore the humanity and dignity of every single individual as a unique person and, at the same time, resist any attempts to demonize or characterize refugees as sinister, faceless threats," Tobin said in a statement.
Guerrero has also attracted the support of New Jersey U.S. Senator Robert Menendez, a Democrat.
On Friday, Menendez joined Tobin and immigrant rights activists in a protest in Newark against Guerrero's deportation.
"I will continue to monitor Mr. Guerrero's case and continue the fight to fix our broken immigration system, so that people like Mr. Guerrero can find a pathway to citizenship and ICE can focus on the real 'bad hombres,'" Menendez told reporters at the rally, echoing a phrase Trump has used to describe some illegal immigrants.
(Reporting by Laila Kearney; Editing by Scott Malone and Tom Brown)