Lucio Pérez, a Guatemalan father of four who has been living in sanctuary at the First Congregational Church in Amherst since October 2017, left the church to be treated at Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton for a life-threatening condition, according to a statement from Pioneer Valley Workers Center and Jobs with Justice organizer Rose Bookbinder.

“Lucio has been, and continues to be, in sanctuary here,” said Rev. Vicki Kemper, pastor of First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ said. “He had no intention of leaving the safety of the church, and he went to the hospital by ambulance only after a doctor examined him and determined that he needed emergency medical care. He has been anxious to return to the church, where he continues to await the resolution of his case,  as soon it was medically safe for him to do so.”

Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz, Kemper, 10 members of the clergy, and more than 20 cars filled with supporters accompanied Pérez on his trip back from Northampton to Amherst, according to the statement. He returned at 12:30 p.m., according to the statement.

Mayor Narkewicz stated, “I’m proud that Lucio was able to receive outstanding medical care in the City of Northampton at Cooley Dickinson Hospital. I’m also proud to stand with Lucio and other immigrant workers in keeping with our values as a sanctuary city.”

Narkewicz recently pledged to stand by undocumented immigrants in his city during a May 1 press conference on the steps of Northampton City Hall and promised to support initiatives such as allowing undocumented immigrants to vote in local elections.

Pérez’s case is pending at the Bureau of Immigration Appeals and a Stay of Removal is also pending with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), according to Bookbinder.  Lucio has lived in the United States for 19 years, working first in a Delaware chicken processing plant before moving to Springfield in 2009.  He has three children who are United States citizens and was the family’s primary breadwinner, employed as a landscaper, Bookbinder wrote in her statement.

“Lucio’s strength and leadership in fighting to keep his family together in the face of deportation has inspired thousands throughout Western Massachusetts and beyond to continue to organize for a better world,” said Bookbinder.