December 16, 2010

Deportation nears; friends stage sit-ins

By Dennis Hoey
Staff Writer

PORTLAND — The friends of a Portland man who faces deportation won't let him return to Guatemala quietly.

Several supporters of Selvin Arevalo staged prayer sit-ins Tuesday at the Portland offices of Maine's two U.S. senators.

They said they were seeking an indication from Sen. Olympia Snowe on whether she will vote to pass the federal Dream Act. They said they are less concerned about Sen. Susan Collins.

The bill would allow undocumented immigrants who came to this country as children to gain legal permanent residency and citizenship if they meet certain conditions, such as attending college or serving in the military.

Snowe and Collins are seen as pivotal votes. The bill could come up for a vote in the Senate before the end of this year. Arevalo, 25, must leave the U.S. by Saturday.

Three Portland police officers were sent to Snowe's office after five people refused to leave around 5:30 p.m.

"The police said you can leave in handcuffs or of your own free will," said Isai Galvez, a college student who is best friends with Arevalo. "We left voluntarily after we felt we had made an impression."

Galvez, his father, Benjamin Galvez, the lead pastor of the Iglesia Pentecostal El Sinai church, and three other people went to Snowe's office around 4:30 p.m. "Our purpose was to pray. We were praying and looking for answers, but it got a little tense," Galvez said.

"When they refused to leave at closing time, the police were called," said Kathryn Bruns, Snowe's spokeswoman.

Snowe said in a prepared statement that the Senate should focus on "securing our porous borders rather than piecemeal approaches to the issue of immigration."

She said millions of illegal immigrants could try to become legal residents as a result of the proposal.

Arevalo, who came to the U.S. when he was 14, was detained for seven months earlier this year after he fled from the scene of a minor traffic accident. He was released on bail last month.

His Philadelphia-based attorney, Dave Bennion, said a judge has given Arevalo until Saturday to leave the country voluntarily. Bennion filed an appeal this week in federal court in Boston, seeking to delay the deportation.

Bennion said his client is close to earning his high school diploma and would like to attend college eventually.

With the Senate vote on the Dream Act pending, Bennion said, Snowe and Collins "in a very real way could determine Selvin's fate."

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be reached at 791-6365 or at:


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