Arturo Hernandez Garcia has been in sanctuary in Denver for more than seven months, living in the basement of a Unitarian church in order to avoid deportation. On Wednesday, his supporters gathered on the steps of the Capitol building to once again publicly ask federal immigration officials to allow Hernandez Garcia to stay in the United States.
Given recent events, advocate Gabriela Flora said into a microphone, "it's even more critical that we organize as a community against unjust deportations."
She was referring to the recent federal court decision that continues to delay implementation of two programs announced by President Obama last year: the expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which stops the deportations of so-called Dreamers, and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA), which would do the same for an estimated four million adult immigrants with citizen children. Hernandez Garcia's supporters say he'd be an excellent candidate for DAPA if it ever goes into effect.
Watch a video about Hernandez Garcia below.
Hernandez Garcia was the subject of a Westword cover story, "Sacred Ground." He came to the United States from Mexico in 1999 with his wife and infant daughter. He made a life here, learning English, starting his own flooring business and having a second daughter, who is a U.S. citizen.
Hernandez Garcia came to the attention of immigration authorities in 2010 when he was arrested after arguing with a window installer at a job site. The window installer — a white man — became angry when Hernandez Garcia told him he couldn't work in a certain area because the new floor was still setting. The man accused Hernandez Garcia of pulling a knife and threatening to kill him. Hernandez Garcia insisted on taking the case to trial, where a jury found him innocent.
But local jail officials had already informed federal immigration authorities that he was undocumented. The feds began the process of deporting him.
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Instead of leaving the United States, Hernandez Garcia took sanctuary at the First Unitarian Society of Denver church. First Unitarian is part of a nationwide movement of churches providing sanctuary to undocumented immigrants facing deportation. Although no law protects Hernandez Garcia from being arrested, federal immigration authorities have a policy to avoid arresting immigrants at “sensitive locations” such as churches and schools.
While in sanctuary, Hernandez Garcia has continued to fight his case. His last request to stay in the United States was denied. Hernandez Garcia vowed to try one more time, even though the chances that such requests will be granted grow slimmer with each denial.
A group of supporters from Colorado plans to travel to Washington, D.C. in mid-June to meet with federal immigration officials and advocate for Hernandez Garcia. "We want to reassure them that we are not going to go away," supporter Eric Wright said. "We will not be moved."