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After Nine Months in "Sanctuary," Garcia Going Home

 Arturo Hernandez Garcia and family. Credit: American Friends Service Committee.
Arturo Hernandez Garcia and family. Credit: American Friends Service Committee.
July 22, 2015

DENVER - Colorado immigrant Arturo Hernandez Garcia was able to leave the "sanctuary" of a Denver Unitarian church on Tuesday.

After months working with lawyers and activists, Garcia received a letter from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement confirming that he was not a priority for deportation.

Jennifer Piper, organizer for the American Friends Service Committee, welcomed what she called "a partial victory."

"Today, we're celebrating a small step forward in Arturo Hernandez Garcia's fight to stay with his family," she said. "He's been living in sanctuary for the last nine months, and today he'll be going home."

Immigrants' rights advocates and religious leaders argued Garcia's case before high-ranking ICE officials in Washington. After clearing legal hurdles involved with the letter, which arrived June 22, Garcia, his family and supporters gathered for a news conference outside First Unitarian Society of Denver.

Garcia was quick to acknowledge all the work done by groups and individuals supporting his efforts to remain in the United States with his wife and two daughters.

"I want to say thank you, everybody, all the groups for immigrants - these people, it's wonderful, wonderful people around me," he said.

Garcia said he's still concerned for others across the country at risk of deportation, and hopes the U.S. government will act soon to help immigrant families.

Sanctuary is neither a legal immigration claim nor status, Piper said, but added that church involvement was critical for buying time to petition Garcia's case.

"Today at the end of the press conference," she said, "Arturo and Ana and Andrea and Mariana walked around the block for the first time in nine months, able to take a walk together as a family."

Garcia came to the United States in 1999, married, and had two children. He has no criminal record and, since October, Garcia has fought to stay in the country under President Obama's Deferred Action for Parents of Americans program.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO