Mexican Man Finds Sanctuary In Denver Church to Avoid Deportation

Arturo Hernandez Garcia flips through the Bible at the First Unitarian Church of Denver on Monday. (The Associated Press)
Arturo Hernandez Garcia flips through the Bible at the First Unitarian Church of Denver on Monday. (The Associated Press)

The Mexican residing in a Denver church basement says his case represents 10 million or more others.

A Mexican man who has been living in a Denver church basement to avoid deportation said Monday that he is prepared to stay as long as it takes to gain the freedom to live in the U.S.

Arturo Hernandez Garcia, who is a contractor, has been granted sanctuary at the First Unitarian Society of Denver. Immigration officials say they do not pursue people wanted for immigration violations into sensitive areas like churches unless they have committed serious crimes.

Garcia said the United States should welcome people willing to work hard, even if they are in this country illegally.

“I believe my case represents the 10 million or more people who have come to this country without documentation or papers,” he said, sitting in the church sanctuary.

Garcia pointed to a double bed with a zebra-striped blanket, a couch, table, a space heater and a television that make up his living quarters. He has access to a shower and a pantry stocked with donated food. Hernandez said he does not believe there will be a rush of immigrants seeking shelter because of the Spartan living conditions and restrictions that could keep him inside the building for months while the church fights for his freedom.

Garcia acknowledges he got into a scrape with another contractor while laying floor tile. He was arrested and then acquitted when he went to trial. The deportation order came after his arrest, and he was ordered expelled from the country earlier this month.

Garcia left his wife and two children and moved into the church basement Tuesday. His family comes to visit almost every day.

Jennifer Piper, a coordinator for a nationwide network of churches supporting or offering sanctuary, said there have been a number of people who have sought sanctuary over the past few years after the federal government launched a crackdown. Those who have sought and received sanctuary include a Tucson man who moved into a church in Arizona this year, a woman living in a Presbyterian church and an immigrant activist with a small-time drug conviction who moved into a church in Oregon.

Piper said six churches in Colorado and dozens of others across the country have promised to provide support and, in some cases, sanctuary as the movement to protect people facing deportation gains steam.

SOURCE: The Associated Press
Steven K. Paulson

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