A group of people opposed to the deportation of a Mexican man from Detroit, gathered outside a US Immigration and Customs Enforcement office today to protest in favour of his release.

The protesters included Tim Hunter, 43, partner of soon to be deported, Hugo Gallardo Petatan. He claims that Petatan, 24, may face physical violence, and will be shunned if he is sent back to Guerrero, southern Mexico.

Petatan, a chef, was an illegal immigrant, arrested in Ann Arbor last October, and who has been in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement since.

Hunter, of Ypsilanti, said: “I’m doing everything in my power to get him relief,”

The driver and general assistant at an Ann Arbor traumatic brain injury rehabilitation facility, said: “I’ve been fighting it every inch of the way.”

He said that Petatan was subject to physical violence as a teenager, and that he had escaped, and was smuggled across the US – Mexican border around seven years ago.

The couple met online last year, and Petatan had moved from North Carolina to Michigan so they could be together.

Richard Rocha, 43, of southwest Detroit, attended the protest. He said: “There are more rights that are afforded to you if you are married,” he said, “Because we don’t have those rights, that’s why I came today.”

Immigration and Customs Enforcement treat illegal immigrants differently if they are married, and it is not currently legal for gay couples to marry in the state.

In July, Michigan gay rights campaigners launched a 100 day shift-based huger strike protesting the state’s “extreme anti-gay environment”.

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement office said a statement will be released later today.