SANFORD, N.C. (WNCN) - A U.S. Army chaplain from Sanford says it took him years to find love and now it’s being ripped away from him by Immigration and Custom Enforcement agents.
Capt. Tim Brown held a rally Sunday calling on lawmakers to help bring his husband home and reform the immigration system.
Brown grew up in a small conservative town in Alabama and went on to serve his country. It took him most of his life to finally come out of the closet.
“We always joke about who got who's number first,” said Brown, who is based at Fort Bragg.
Brown, an Army officer and chaplain, married Sergio Michael Avila-Rodriguez in January 2017.
Brown says he thought they were doing everything the right way. They were in the process of getting his husband legal status.
“It’s like a gut punch,” Brown said. “You go through all of that. You pick a path. You pay the thousands of dollars.”
Avila-Rodriguez left Honduras with his uncle at only 7-years-old and he's lived in the United States ever since.
Brown says Avila-Rodriguez was a DACA recipient, but because of a DWI at age 21, his attorney told them to let his DACA expire and work on getting a marriage waiver.
“We go in, start the immigration interview and ICE just kind of busts in and says, ‘Hey we need to talk to you.’ The interesting thing is they said, ‘Do you think we would actually arrest or detain the spouse of an active duty army officer?’ And my attorney said, ‘Uh yeah.’ "
Brown says despite the run in with ICE, on April 18 the couple successfully got the marriage waiver, but things took a turn on May 10 when Avila-Rodriguez went to Charlotte to check in with ICE.
“I get a phone call from Sergio saying 'I’m being detained and I’m being deported'," Brown said. "I’m not really sure to describe what I thought. I was at a loss for words.”
Brown says ICE agents revoked his husband's waivers and he does not know why.
ICE spokesperson Bryan Cox says Avila-Rodriguez never received a marriage waiver that changed his legal status.
Cox says if you are in the country illegally you can marry a U.S. citizen, but that does not grant you the ability to change your status.
He says because Avila-Rodriguez is in the United States illegally and because of his criminal background, he is a priority for ICE.
Avila-Rodriguez is awaiting deportation at a detention facility in Georgia. On Monday he will attend a hearing.
Brown’s lawyer, Patrick Hatch says he filed a motion to reopen the 2002 order to deport Avila-Rodriguez.
He says the fact that this motion is pending provides an official stay of removal for Avila-Rodriguez. Hatch says ICE cannot legally deport him while it’s pending.
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