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First Person in CO Claims Sanctuary to Avoid Deportation

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014   

DENVER – Today will be Arturo Hernandez's first full day living inside a church – the First Unitarian Society of Denver.

A 15-year Colorado resident, Hernandez says he faces deportation and is working with the Metro Denver Sanctuary Coalition to ask Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to stop its actions to deport him and help him keep his family together.

Through an interpreter, he explained his thoughts: "Sanctuary is very important to me, because it will help me draw Immigration's attention to my case. We have tried everything for the last four years to stop my deportation."

Hernandez has a wife and two children and says he employs as many as nine people at a time as a contractor.

Organizers of the Metro Denver Sanctuary Coalition hope their involvement will deter ICE from forcibly deporting Hernandez. They say he will remain inside the church until immigration officials grant him relief.

Rev. Mike Morran, First Unitarian Society of Denver, says his church worked hard to educate its members on what sanctuary meant for their church, and members voted overwhelmingly in support of housing Hernandez.

"This was a big issue for our congregation," says Rev. Morran. "We discussed it at great length, we held forums, we published a lot of information, we answered a lot of questions. And the congregation actually voted, as a whole congregation."

Hernandez says he's been waiting for President Obama and Congress to address the country's immigration policies that impact people like him, who have contributed to the tax base and economy while making the United States their home.

"I've worked for many years here in Colorado as a subcontractor. I've paid taxes all that time and I've provided employment through subcontracting to other people," he says. "I haven't depended on the government at all. I think I've contributed quite a bit."

Successful sanctuary programs operate in other cities, including Tucson and Philadelphia. Sanctuary is not a legal immigration claim or status, but organizers say church involvement has had success in other cities where sanctuary programs exist.



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