Local clergy accompany Columbus man to ICE check-in

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CLEVELAND, Ohio - It's been a scary time for Manuel Gonzalez and his family.

He and his wife, Edith Espinial, have been living in a Columbus church because the family is afraid that Edith could be deported if she leaves it.

But Manuel left the church Wednesday morning  for his own court date before a federal judge in Cleveland.

It's just a check-in appearance, but the family is worried.

“It's been hard not having my mom at home, not having those days we all get ready and all go to church and we'd go out to eat and just have those family moments. It's not the same as it used to be," his daughter, Stephanie, said.

There is also a lot of worry among the area's clergy who say what's happened to families like the Gonzalezes is just not right.

“These deportations are not making America great,” Reverend John Lentz of Forest Hills Presbyterian in Cleveland Heights said. “They are showing that we are narrow and bigoted."

So how did it get to this point for this family? Why did they never seek citizenship?

Manuel Gonzalez came to the United States in 2014 and sought asylum.  (Their son is a US citizen.) He's checked in with federal officials and filed the right paperwork. He and his wife, Edith, thought they were on the path to becoming citizens when things changed.

His wife could be immediately deported, and through an interpreter Manuel says he is nervous going to court alone.

“Yes, it was very difficult because we have always be together and have always appeared together. And when I have had to appear in immigration court and when always together and I’m here to say although we're separated I’m going to go back to Columbus today."

With his daughter by his side, Gonzalez walked the few blocks from the Old Stone Church to the federal courthouse with ministers and advocates in tow.

After a brief status hearing, Gonzalez was ordered to come back to federal court next March.

Manuel Gonzalez and his wife will remain in a Columbus church until her situation gets straightened out.

She's on 24-hour-a-day monitoring in the meantime.

The government knows where she is, but immigration officials say they won't enter a house of worship.

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