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AG Pastor Freed

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Imprisoned Assemblies of God pastor Noe Carias walked to freedom Sept. 21, nearly two months after being detained by U.S. immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The pastor’s wife, Victoria, and their children, Nylah, 7, and Abraham, 5, ran to hug him outside Adelanto Detention Center in Southern California. Victoria had been raising the children alone since federal officials took her husband into custody on July 24.

“I cannot describe with words the emotion I have to be with my family again,” Noe Carias told PE News the morning after his release. “God answered the prayers of many people.”

Carias, 42, is pastor of Iglesia Pentecostal Cristo la Roca de Poder Asambleas de Dios in Los Angeles. Although he has lived in the U.S. for the past quarter century and has been married to his American-born wife for 14 years, Carias, a native of Guatemala, faced the threat of deportation. Federal officials in July denied his renewal petition for a stay of removal and placed him in Adelanto Detention Center.

Despite the release, that order remains.

“This is a first step, a good step, in a long process,” says Carias’ attorney Noemí G. Ramirez.

Ramirez says ICE released Carias because he had no criminal past, doesn’t pose a flight risk, and isn’t a deportation priority. He didn’t have to post bond.

However, Carias must wear an ankle bracelet to monitor his whereabouts, and check in with ICE periodically.

U.S. AG General Superintendent George O. Wood pressured the Trump administration for Carias’ release. Wood brought the issue before the General Council in Anaheim in August, introducing Victoria and the couple’s two children on stage.

“I am delighted to learn of Pastor Carias' release,” Wood said upon hearing the news. “What a wonderful day this is for him, his family, his church, and for all of those who have prayed for him.”

Ramirez says waiver requests for three deportation orders dating back to the mid-1990s have been submitted. Legal petitions could take up to a year to be resolved. She is confident the path to citizenship will be realized, and that authorities will factor in the pastor’s ties to the community, model behavior, and his American wife and children.

“It’s a long fight,” says Ada Valienta, a Baptist pastor with the Southern California Matthew 25 Movement that has been pressing for Carias’ freedom. “This is a critical case, and the deportation order is still in place. A judge would have to remove it.”

“This is not a victory,” emphasized MaryDuong of the Los Angeles-based Clergy & Laity United for Economic Justice. “He is under house arrest, and we still need to continue advocating for his case. The only difference is now he can be physically with his family.”

In the meantime, Carias isn’t allowed to be employed in the U.S. His identification papers, work authorization, and Social Security documentation all have been revoked.

Victoria and Noe met as teenagers at a Los Angeles AG church, and Noe converted to Christ at 17. The couple started a church in their living room six years ago, and Carias has taken courses through the AG’s Southern Pacific District Bible school. Sergio Navarrete, superintendent of the Hispanic district, has been working for Carias’ release.

Navarrete says he never has seen such interdenominational unity on a project in 35 years of ministry. He believes the pressure applied by various Christian coalitions, including the Assemblies of God, spurred the sudden emancipation.

Carias says he didn’t know he would be freed until Thursday, and ICE representatives offered no explanations.

“I never lost my faith,” Carias says. “My superintendent (Navarrete) told me, ‘We are with you to the end.’”

Navarrete says the 35 AG Los Angeles sectional churches have been supporting the Carias family in practical and financial ways on an almost daily basis.

The U.S. Assemblies of God made a donation to the Carias family at General Council. Offerings taken at General Council and subsequent donations to a designated fund website have raised additional funds.

Carias, who preached at the church on Sunday, also expressed gratitude to Wood.

“I never thought in my mind I would receive that humongous support from the Assemblies of God,” Carias says. “The wonderful economic support has been a big blessing.”

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