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Undocumented Immigrant Finds Refuge in St. Louis Church

Alex Garcia has taken sanctuary from deportation in a St. Louis church for the last four months.  The church on Bellevue and Bruno where he has been living is over 150 miles from his family—his wife and five children.

Garcia is from Honduras and came to the United States thirteen years ago.  Garcia started having trouble from ICE a few years ago and has been given two one-year reprieves to remain in the United States.

This all changed after he requested a third stay last summer and, under the Trump administration, his request was denied.  In September he was told to report to ICE so that he could be sent back to Honduras.  Garcia found his way to Christ Church United Church of Christ instead.

The church had been looking for new ways to help vulnerable communities after Donald Trump was elected to the presidency in 2016.  They decided to focus their attention on immigration.

Pastor Rebecca Turner preached to the congregation, “Jesus says that when someone comes to us in need, we are to treat him as Jesus himself…If we don’t provide, it’s, in essence, turning Jesus away.”

Pastor Turner received a call the following day from an agency that works with undocumented persons from Latin America.  She was told that a man facing deportation needed sanctuary from ICE.

Turner says, “There was simply no way we could not say yes…We’ve got Jesus knocking at the door.”

ICE policy, beginning in 2011, designates “sensitive locations” where immigration laws are not likely to be enforced.  Examples of sensitive locations include churches, schools, and hospitals—although this policy is not hard and fast, and sensitive locations are not completely immune to the enforcement of immigration laws.

The church, along with other sensitive locations, file documents with ICE to give officials notice that the immigrant has sought sanctuary and is presiding in a sensitive location.

Pastor Turner is adamant.  “We are not harboring, hiding anyone…[Garcia] is being protected by the church.”

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