Arturo Hernandez Garcia, an undocumented immigrant who has been in sanctuary at the First Unitarian Society of Denver Church for three months, has suffered another setback in his case. Attorneys for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement have declined to join Garcia's motion to re-open the case. If ICE had agreed to do so, supporters say it would have increased the odds that a judge would have postponed Garcia's deportation.
Garcia came to the United States from Mexico in 1999. Before he took sanctuary, he worked as a contractor and lived in Thornton with his wife, Ana, and their two daughters, fifteen-year-old Mariana and nine-year-old Andrea. His younger daughter was born in the U.S., which is one of the factors that supporters say makes Garcia a prime candidate for a program announced by President Obama in November; it allows the parents of citizens to request what's called "deferred action" and authorization to work in the United States.
But that program won't help him stay in Colorado with his family if he's deported first. Garcia came to the attention of ICE in 2010 and was eventually ordered to be deported. Instead of complying, Garcia entered sanctuary at the Unitarian church in October.
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As such, Garcia cannot leave the church. But through the use of a cell-phone speaker held up to a microphone, he spoke to the crowd at a rally in front of the Denver immigration court on Wednesday. He said he plans to stay in sanctuary "until something changes in my case."
Ana attended the rally in person. "We feel sad," she said, "and we feel angry." She addressed some of her comments directly to Corina Almeida, the chief counsel for the Colorado ICE office, which didn't agree to re-open her husband's case.
"We appealed to her good heart and we appealed in good faith, and she rejected those appeals," she said with the help of an interpreter. Behind her, a supporter held a sign that depicted a selfie of the family and the words, "This family simply belongs together!"
Garcia plans to apply for what's known as a "stay of removal," supporters say, which would postpone his deportation. Stay tuned for updates about his case.