Mo. man leaves sanctuary after 3.5 years, no longer threatened by deportation

Updated: Feb. 24, 2021 at 2:59 PM CST
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KFVS) - After living in a church for 3.5 years, a Missouri man left the sanctuary after ICE announced it would longer pursue his deportation.

Alex Garcia walked out of the Christ Church United Church of Christ in Maplewood, Mo. at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, February 24.

“Today we celebrate as I leave sanctuary and reunite with my family after being separated for 1,252 days,” Garcia said. “Because of all of your support and the new administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement made a promise that I am no longer a priority for deportation. We are not done yet. There is still so much work that has to be done and I look forward to being able to join you all out there in the community and continue to fight for my permanent protection.”

Immigration and Customs Enforcement declared that Alex Garcia, a Honduran immigrant who had been living in sanctuary for more than three-and-a-half years, is no longer a priority for deportation. The agency stated it would not be pursuing his detention or removal.

According to the agency, its decision comes after newly implemented enforcement priorities announced by the Biden Administration the previous week.

It also follows the introduction of a private bill by Congresswoman Cori Bush that would offer Garcia legal permanent residency.

“St. Louis and I are so grateful and relieved that Alex has been reunited with his family at home,” Congresswoman Bush said. “This is the power of organizing. Alex was able to go home today because of the tireless work of his family, organizers, faith leaders, lawyers, Christ Church UCC in Maplewood, and community members who fought tooth and nail for years to make this day a reality. The pain Alex and his family have endured is unimaginable, unjust, and unacceptable. ICE has promised not to deport Alex, and we will stop at nothing to ensure that they keep their promise. In Congress, I will continue championing the private bill to grant Alex permanent residency, which is the surest way to guarantee permanent unity for his family.”

Garcia lived in Poplar Bluff for more than 12 years before being told he had to leave.

He has been living at the church since September 21, 2017 after ICE revoked its previous decision to allow him to stay with his family.

He was given two weeks to turn himself in to be deported, which would have been permanently separated him from Carly, his wife of more than 10 years, and five children, all U.S. citizens.

“These last 3.5 years have been very difficult and traumatizing for us,” Carly Garcia, Alex Garcia’s wife, said. “But as you have heard from Alex. Today Alex will be leaving sanctuary because ICE made a promise that Alex will not be deported, that he is no longer a priority for deportation. We celebrate this win today but it’s not over; Alex still needs permanent protection. The private bill HR 1209 that Congresswoman Cori Bush introduced on Monday will grant Alex the protection he desperately needs - that we as a family desperately need. Thank you all so much for your continued support and we look forward to continuing to push for more just immigration laws so that all of the families in sanctuary are free.”

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