After living and working in Colorado for 15 years, a Mexican man and his wife have sought sanctuary in a Denver church basement because a run-in with man spouting racial slurs triggered deportation proceedings.
The Denver Post reported that 41-year-old Arturo Hernandez Garcia and his 40-year-old wife, Ana, had entered the country on a legal visa in 1999. The couple had two children. Garcia’s father and mother-in-law are also legal citizens.
After the visa expired, the Garcias have sought legal residency. But the petitions to the government have been unsuccessful so far.
In 2010, Garcia was working on a job site when he asked another contractor not to come into an area where his crew was laying tile. Garcia said the man began shouting racial slurs, which led to an argument.
“He got close and it looked like he was going to punch me,” Garcia recalled. “I pushed him away softly.”
Garcia was charged and arrested, and was later found innocent. But U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement flagged the case, and issued a deportation order.
So the First Unitarian Society of Denver officially offered the Garcias sanctuary on Sunday.
“We welcomed Arturo Hernandez Garcia into our church, and our attorney notified all the appropriate authorities that Arturo would reside here at First Unitarian for the immediate future,” First Unitarian Denver member Kate Burns told the Denver Post.
“All of this is in an effort to put pressure on Immigration and Customs Enforcement to stop his deportation order, and in a larger sense, to put pressure on Congress and the president to reform a deeply broken and destructive immigration system,” she added.
The church planned to deliver petitions to ICE calling on them to drop Garcia’s case. The church’s board of trustees was expected to re-evaluate the Garcias sanctuary in three months if their status had not changed.
“I want the public to know about my case,” Garcia told church members on Sunday. “There are so many families just like mine that have come here to work and look for a future for our children… we are a part of this country and not a threat.”