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New sanctuary movement stops deportations

Photo: AFSC

When Arturo Hernández García faced deportation last fall, he found sanctuary in the basement of a Denver church. The church community had been partnering with AFSC for over three years, learning about issues affecting undocumented immigrants and accompanying them at vigils. In 2013, AFSC approached the church about providing sanctuary for an immigrant leader, who ended up not needing it. By the time Arturo needed them, they were ready.

Arturo is a longtime resident of Colorado and father of two. On a construction worksite several years ago, a man started an argument with Arturo, and then called the police to have him arrested. Though a jury found him not guilty, the case brought Arturo to the attention of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). After losing appeals against deportation, he turned to Jennifer Piper for help entering sanctuary. As interfaith organizer with AFSC’s Colorado Immigrant Rights Program, she coordinates the Metro Denver Sanctuary Coalition.

“Sanctuary calls people of faith to accompany immigrants living with the destructive impacts of our immigration system to examine that system in light of their values, and to amplify the prophetic voice of immigrants to educate the rest of their faith communities and the larger citizen community about the realities of this situation,” Jennifer says.

Arturo is the first person to take sanctuary in a Denver church since the 1980s sanctuary movement. With over 2 million people deported since President Obama took office in 2009, a new sanctuary movement was born to draw attention to the community impact of immigration policies.

Sanctuary allows people to remain in the U.S. while ICE re-examines their cases. It’s against ICE policy to enter places of worship (and schools and hospitals) in order to detain immigrants.

In 2014, over 30 faith communities were prepared to provide sanctuary, and a dozen people claimed sanctuary. None have been deported, and most have returned home to their families after ICE granted stays of removal.

Check for the latest on Arturo’s case.