U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has granted a reprieve to allow a Fort Bragg Army chaplain’s husband, who was facing imminent deportation, to remain in country, their attorney said Tuesday.
Sergio Avila-Rodriguez, the husband of Chaplain Capt. Tim Brown was taken into custody by ICE on May 10 and Brown was notified he was going to be deported to his native Honduras, North Carolina TV station WRAL reported.
At the time ICE cited Avila-Rodriguez’s initial illegal entry at the age of 7 and a subsequent driving while intoxicated conviction in 2015 as reason for removal, it told WRAL in a statement.
On Monday, however, ICE decided to release Avila-Rodriguez and allow him to continue residing in the United States under supervision while he and Brown work on getting him legal permanent residency, attorney Patrick Hatch said.
The couple had pressed ICE that returning Avila-Rodriguez to Honduras would endanger his life due to his openly gay status, and the couple may still seek asylum for Avila-Rodriguez to remain in the U.S. permanently.
Another option would be to request the immigration courts to reopen Avila-Rodriguez initial deportation case and have the removal order terminated, which would allow the couple to apply for “parole in place,” another step toward legal permanent residency.
Brown has served 10 years in the Army, much of that time supporting Army special forces. He spent 21 months in Afghanistan during two deployments there.
At a press conference Tuesday that was broadcast on Brown’s Facebook page, the Fort Bragg chaplain was highly critical of what he called the “unfettered authority” of ICE.
“When you run kind of fast and loose,” Brown said, “You make mistakes. And you slip up.”
“You just did that with the wrong person. The wrong couple. We intend to fight. Not just for Sergio.” but the larger immigrant population as well, Brown said.
Over the past several months, many undocumented spouses of U.S. service members have asked what protections they have from deportation. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has said the Pentagon is looking into the issue along with the Department of Homeland Security to see what policies would apply.
ICE does not keep statistics on how many of the 61,094 people it deported in fiscal 2017 were either spouses or dependents of U.S. military service members.
The House Armed Services Committee was considering an amendment to the 2019 defense authorization bill to study whether it would be feasible for the agency to report that information, but the measure was not included in the final bill.
Tara Copp is a Pentagon correspondent for the Associated Press. She was previously Pentagon bureau chief for Sightline Media Group.