Man living in Poplar Bluff takes sanctuary in St. Louis area to - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Man living in Poplar Bluff takes sanctuary in St. Louis area to avoid deportation

(Source: Hank Cavagnaro/ KFVS) (Source: Hank Cavagnaro/ KFVS)
ST. LOUIS (KFVS) -

A man who has lived in the Missouri Bootheel for more than a decade is fighting deportation and taking sanctuary in the St. Louis area.

Even though Alex Garcia does not consider the Christ Church in Maplewood, Missouri his home, it's where he's made his home for now.

"It's not easy for me," said Garcia. "To think to think of my children when I talk to them and they ask me why I don't come home."

Alex Garcia considers Poplar Bluff, Mo. to be his home. He's lived there for 13 years. It's where his wife and children live.

"We don't know how long it will last," Said Carly Garcia, Alex's wife. "Hopefully not long at all, my children want him home, I want him home."

Alex and Carly have been married for 10 years and are raising five children. His marriage to Carly did not give Garcia legal citizenship because he moved to the United States illegally. He also can't apply for citizenship because he was caught trying to cross the border into the U.S. in 2000.

"He is not eligible to get his green card or get on a path to citizenship," said Nicole Cortez, Garcia's lawyer. "He's subject to a mandatory 10 years outside of the country before Carly could start the process to bring him to the U.S."

Cortez is very familiar with the immigration process and has been helping people become citizens for five years. She said the first step to Alex becoming a legal citizen would be for his wife to claim him as a spouse.

"When it comes to a point for him to apply for his residency though that's where his prior immigration history would bar him from getting there so they could have taken that first step but the first step gives him no benefit." 

So while his lawyer is talking with ICE trying to get another stay of removal, Garcia is staying in the Christ Church in Maplewood. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has an internal policy that states officers will not enter a place of worship to execute an order. The Reverend of the church is asking them to keep that policy.

"We're being very public about this," said Rev. Rebecca Turner. 

She and other faith leaders have come to the aid of Garcia. They believe that ICE should grant him the stay, but until they do, he is welcome at the church.

"We have made a commitment to this family that we're going to take care of them," Rev. Turner added.

So, for now, Garcia is away from his family as he awaits the next legal steps.

The plan is to meet with ICE again on Thursday, Oct. 26, in order to try and file the appeal for the stay of removal. The last time they tried to submit the appeal, ICE refused to take the documents.

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