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Photo courtesy of the Barralaga family.

Photo courtesy of the Barralaga family

Huberto Barralaga, second from left, a United Methodist Church lay leader, has been released on bail after a month in detention by the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

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Church leader detained by ICE out on bail

By the Rev. Gustavo Vasquez
March 9, 2017 | UMNS

An evangelism leader at Casa de Oración United Methodist Church in Dodge City, Kansas, has been released on $8,000 bond after being detained for a month by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Humberto Barralaga’s court date is April 4. "The attorney is seeking to obtain a pardon that will allow me to process my papers here, especially considering that my son, who is a U.S. citizen, will turn 21 in three months, could initiate my petition," Barralaga said. “I was arrested unexpectedly, because I had in my immigration file an order to leave the country and begin the paperwork from Honduras, but I decided not to leave."

The procedure for obtaining legal documentation must be started from the country of origin, but the possibility of re-entry to the U.S. is not guaranteed. Barralaga feared he would not be allowed back if he returned to Honduras.

Supporters of comprehensive immigration reform contend such reform would allow the legalization of more than 11 million people who are without documents.

Barralaga was among 650 people arrested by ICE officials on Feb. 7. “There were all kinds of people in there — criminals, people with no criminal background, different ages, men and women. That meant that the detention conditions, food and treatment was very bad. That frequently causes people to lose hope and feel discouraged," Barralaga said.

Barralaga said he shared his faith with others during his imprisonment. "People were feeling depressed by the way they were living and that led me to give them a message of encouragement and to testify of our Lord. Five people gave their lives to Christ and that filled me with strength in the midst of the difficulties that I had been living in," he said.

Both Humberto, his wife, Emilia, and their children are grateful for the support they have received from their church, especially from the Rev. Raciel Quntana, pastor of Casa de Oración (House of Prayer in English) who has been supporting and accompanying them with prayer, visits and helping with some of their family needs.

Barralaga’s driver’s license was confiscated when he was arrested and will not be returned until the court case is resolved. He works as a truck driver. "Now new challenges start because I probably will have to quit my current job and start looking for new options," said Barralaga.

Emilia Barralaga said the arrest was a challenge for the family’s faith. “And only the hand of God allowed us to have Humberto free with us today. Now we begin a new stage in which we continue to need the support of our church and brothers and sisters in faith," she said.

Vasquez is the Director of Hispanic/Latino Communications at United Methodist Communications in Nashville, Tenn. You can contact him at (615)742-5111 or gvasquez@umcom.org. To get more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests.