Chatham County pastor facing deportation

Hector Villanueva

August 25, 2010 9:39:48 PM PDT
A local pastor is facing deportation to Mexico even though he's a legal permanent resident.Hector Villanueva was convicted of commercial burglary 16 years ago. His wife says he has changed since then, but the law may send him back anyway.

Villanueva and his wife Martha were both born in Mexico and raised in the U.S., but Villanueva had a troubled past.

"He's not proud of the things he's done in the past, but he's definitely learned from them and that has helped to guide his choices and what he wants to do with his life now," Martha Villanueva said.

She says Villanueva became a Christian and 12 years later is a pastor at a church in Siler City. She also says he is a permanent legal resident, but was denied citizenship.

"Spoke with a lawyer who told us there was a very small possibility that they would come to take him and they this was because of a law that was passed a few years ago," Martha Villanueva said.

The law allows legal residents like Villanueva to be deported for aggravated felonies on their records and on Thursday, immigration came for him.

"I heard my husband say come on in, sit down then my husband told me that immigration was here and I felt my heart sink to the floor," Villanueva said. "I just told him that I loved him and that we're going to get through this together."

Martha Villanueva says she is filing a petition to keep him in the country. She says she knows he may be deported, but she wants her husband to have a second chance.

"I know that this immigration issue is a big issue right now and there's a lot of controversy on that, but I know my husband and I know that he's a man who loves God and loves to serve others," Martha Villanueva said.

Villanueva is currently at a facility in Georgia. His church says they will continue with the help of other pastors.

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