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N.C. Hispanic pastor facing possible deportation
Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press
August 30, 2010
3 MIN READ TIME

N.C. Hispanic pastor facing possible deportation

N.C. Hispanic pastor facing possible deportation
Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press
August 30, 2010

WINSTON-SALEM — Leaders of

the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina (CBFNC) solicited urgent

prayer Aug. 27 for a Hispanic pastor facing possible deportation for a

15-year-old crime he committed before accepting Christ.

According to media reports,

Hector Villanueva, pastor of a Spanish-speaking church in Siler City, N.C., was

arrested Aug. 19 by United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents

and taken to Gainesville, Ga., to face an immigration judge.

Villanueva, 40, has lived in

the United States since he was 3. He is a legal resident with a green card and

Social Security card. He and his wife, Martha, a U.S. citizen, have four

children and are in the process of adopting two foster children.

Martha Villanueva told

the Raleigh News & Observer that a lawyer alerted her husband several months

ago that his green card might be in jeopardy because of a “commercial burglary”

conviction in the mid-1990s.

He was homeless at the time

and apparently tried to cash a check that wasn’t his. He became a practicing

Christian while in jail and dedicated his life to the ministry. His wife

admitted that in his former life her husband did some things of which he is not

proud.

“He is a man that loves to

help people,” his wife told

North Carolina television station WRAL. “His passion is just to serve God in

the ministry and to help.”

After moving from California

four years ago, Villanueva helped CBF-NC Hispanic Leader Coach Javier Benitez

start Iglesia Bautista la Roca in Raleigh, one of a dozen congregations that

form the state organization’s Hispanic Network.

He recently started a new

church in Siler City.

His conviction surfaced in a

background check after he applied for U.S. citizenship. Under current

immigration law,

any non-citizen convicted of an “aggravated felony” faces deportation, whether

or not they have served their sentence.

“Hector has an immigration

lawyer, who is petitioning on his behalf to be released on bond,” noted the

prayer appeal

from CBF-NC Executive Coordinator Larry Hovis, Missions Coordinator Linda Jones

and Social Ministries Coordinator Laura Barclay. “Many of us have written

character reference letters, but now we need your prayers. Please pray for

Hector and his family in their time of need.”

“We are hoping he will be allowed to stay with his

church and family,” Jones said in a separate Aug. 27 e-mail. “He’s a great guy,

and this is a real tragic story so far.”