Lucio Perez, an undocumented immigrant and a native of Guatemala who has been taking sanctuary in the First Church of Amherst since October, wants to personally show his gratitude towards the community through a potluck dinner on June 18 at 6 p.m.
The dinner, which will be hosted by Amnesty International group 128 (Connecticut Valley chapter), the Pioneer Valley Workers Center, the First Church UCC Amherst, and the Interfaith Sanctuary Network of Western Mass, will take place at the First Church in Amherst.
According to Maria Cuerda, a volunteer at the Pioneer Valley Workers Center, “this event should support Perez and bring light to the issue of undocumented immigrant workers.” Cuerda and Perez will both speak at the event.
Perez has lived in the United States for over 20 years, first in Delaware, then moving to Springfield in 2009. He is a father of four, and his wife and three of his four children are United States citizens. Perez was denied a stay of deportation, which is when the church community opened their doors as a place of safety for him.
These potlucks have happened every six to eight weeks, according to Karen Levine, who is a volunteer at the Interfaith Sanctuary Network, but this particular dinner will educate and bring the community together, as well as acknowledge World Refugee Day. Levine said it’s a wonderful way to show support for Perez and other undocumented immigrants.
Levine mentioned that the community has supported Perez in countless ways including people contributing money, people driving his wife and kids back and forth from Springfield to visit him at the church, people making meals four or five days a week, and providing Perez with 24/7 accompaniment.
Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz and several carloads of people accompanied Perez to the hospital recently, where he required surgery for appendicitis.
Cuerda emphasized that the Workers Center continues to be involved with Perez so that his case can stay relevant in the news in order for people to become aware of the inhumane ways in which the immigration system treats undocumented citizens.
“Especially right now, our immigration policy has shifted radically. People are coming to the borders because they are fleeing violence in their own countries,” she said.
The event is free and open to the public. The dinner will begin at 6 p.m.