Valley pastor, church members found to be undocumented
Arizona Republic
April 12, 2008


Members of a Valley church, including the pastor, were detained at a Prescott campground Saturday morning after they were determined to be undocumented by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.

Campers at the White Spar Campground called the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office complaining that the group was singing and had music on around 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. said Dwight Develyn, spokesman for the sheriff's office. Officers arrived at the campgrounds around 7 a.m.

Develyn said he believes the nine people detained were part of a church group, and noise complaints are fairly common at the campground.

ICE spokesman Vincent Picard said he didn't know about this particular incident, but once someone is deemed undocumented, ICE's next step is to seek to remove them from the country.

Law enforcement and immigration officials couldn't confirm on Saturday the identities of those taken into custody. But Alfredo Aragon, a Christian missionary out of California working in Phoenix, said the people detained are leaders of the Phoenix church Christiana Agape.

Aragon said the group of about 13 people left for Prescott early Saturday morning for a retreat. He said sheriff's deputies initially asked about the noise and eventually determined that nine in the group were in the country illegally.

He said church Pastor Manuel Maldonado is among the detained. Aragon said the church leaders should be given special treatment because they weren't breaking any laws.

Aragon said the group was transported to Phoenix Saturday night and said leaders from area churches are gathering to find out how to get the church members legal help.

"I think it's arbitrary, because the original complaint was wrong," Aragon said in Spanish. "They were just singing and praying with the bible."