Sanctuary

IFCLA Supports Alex Garcia as He Fights to Remain with His Family

October 2017

On October 21st, 2017, supported by the Migrant and Immigrant Community Action (MICA) Project, the St. Louis Coalition on Sanctuary, and IFCLA, Alex Garcia sought the protection of sanctuary. Faced with unjust deportation to Honduras, Alex and his family made the brave choice to fight his removal by taking sanctuary in order to continue to pressure Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to renew his Stay of Removal. 

Alex came to this country from Honduras thirteen years ago seeking safety and a better life. He now has a US citizen wife, Carleen Garcia, and five US citizen children, and has become a respected member of their community (Poplar Bluffs, MO) and a pillar of support for his family. His oldest son was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome in 2014 and depends on his strong relationship with his father to calm his stress and anxiety. For his eldest and his four other children, Alex is an incredible source of support and an amazing role model. 

Faced with deportation in 2015, Alex petitioned for and was granted a Stay of Removal for a period of one year. Each year since then, he worked with an attorney to file a new request to receive permission to stay in the US for another year to continue caring for his family. Up until now, the government has recognized Alex’s responsibilities as a devoted father and husband, and has granted permission every year. In August of this year, however, ICE denied Alex’s request and gave him a date to be deported. 

Alex moved into sanctuary the day his deportation was scheduled. Simultaneously, Nicole Cortes, his lawyer at the MICA Project, went with Alex’s family to the ICE sub-field office in downtown St. Louis to present a new Motion to ICE, which contained over 800 signatures from his community attesting to his character and why he should not be considered a priority for deportation. But the local agents told Alex’s family that they don’t care, that this man and this family does not matter. Agents refused to accept the filing of a Motion to Stay. Cortes, his lawyer, describes the experience by saying: 

 

On October 21st, 2017, supported by the Migrant and Immigrant Community Action (MICA) Project, the St. Louis Coalition on Sanctuary, and IFCLA, Alex Garcia sought the protection of sanctuary. Faced with unjust deportation to Honduras, Alex and his family made the brave choice to fight his removal by taking sanctuary in order to continue to pressure Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to renew his Stay of Removal. 

Alex came to this country from Honduras thirteen years ago seeking safety and a better life. He now has a US citizen wife, Carleen Garcia, and five US citizen children, and has become a respected member of their community (Poplar Bluffs, MO) and a pillar of support for his family. His oldest son was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome in 2014 and depends on his strong relationship with his father to calm his stress and anxiety. For his eldest and his four other children, Alex is an incredible source of support and an amazing role model. 

Faced with deportation in 2015, Alex petitioned for and was granted a Stay of Removal for a period of one year. Each year since then, he worked with an attorney to file a new request to receive permission to stay in the US for another year to continue caring for his family. Up until now, the government has recognized Alex’s responsibilities 

"Today I walked into ICE with a client’s wife and five children. They looked right past us and said they didn't care about the media, or the over 800 signatures from their rural community, about his oldest child's Asperger's, and especially not about the five children about to lose their dad. Their decision in this case is discretionary. We are forced to beg for their mercy. And they don't care—and explicitly said as much. They let those kids witness deplorable behavior and unacceptable attitude. I am disgusted with our system and the oppression, terror, and pain it inflicts. I told that officer, and the family, and the dozens of supporters standing outside that day, and the hundreds that signed his petition—that we will not stop. We will not look on as you do this to us and ours.” 

Our work to support Alex and his family is far from over. As we continue to escalate and build pressure locally, we are prepared to escalate up the hierarchy of this system to demand transparency and justice. Please stay tuned for opportunities for solidarity and support. 

IFCLA is proud to be working in coalition to provide sanctuary in the St. Louis region in order to slow deportations of our community members. And yet, Alex’s battle reminds us that under the current Administration, the regime of ICE leaves no room for dignity or justice. IFCLA’s work continues to be important for our immigrant neighbors in the St. Louis area and throughout the country. 

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National Sanctuary Conference—Austin, TX

July 2017

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In July, with support from the St. Louis Coalition on Sanctuary, IFCLA sent Sara John along with Jose Alfredo Chavez from Latinos en Axión to the National Sanctuary Movement Annual Convening. The conference was held at the Austin Theological Seminary on July 28-29, 2019. This space was organized by Rev. Noel Anderson and Myrna Orozco Gallos, of the Sanctuary Movement (see www.sanctuarynotdeportation.org). About 40 participants from across the country attended the conference, which offered four primary objectives: develop a coordinated messaging framework for the Sanctuary Movement; coordinate our work moving forward and have space for strategy conversations; provide training opportunities for those seeking to engage in this work for the first time; and provide space for networking, fellowship and learning from each other. 

Sanctuary is a way to be in solidarity with the undocumented community by creating safe space for the prophetic voices of immigrant leaders to be lifted up as we together confront unjust laws. Rooted in our shared faith values, sanctuary is a deep tradition that has meant offering radical hospitality to marginalized people, accompanying them in their struggle for justice and advocating for their liberation. We learned that sanctuary is unique in time, people and places. There is no “one way” to do it, but what ties us together are the values we cherish, which are increasingly threatened by systemic racism and expanding immigration enforcement activity. 

In the last 3 years, the Sanctuary Movement has supported over 40 public sanctuary cases. Of these, more than 22 are still pending and at least 16 have received relief from deportation. The national Movement is a broad network of congregations, which has grown from 400 at the beginning of this year to now more than 800! A wide variety of traditions participate in this work of prophetic resistance including: United Methodist, Presbyterian USA, United Church of Christ, Unitarian Universalist, Disciples of Christ, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Episcopal, Catholic, Friends Meeting, a variety of Jewish synagogues, and others. 

While sanctuary is a strategy and can be a powerful tool not only for direct relief from deportation but also for organizing and mobilizing community support and response to changing immigration policies. Sanctuary, however, is not the goal. Our goal is to ensure that the dignity of all, including immigrants and their families, is honored and respected. Sanctuary is one of many strategies for this struggle for justice. 

Please keep reading for details about the St. Louis Coalition on Sanctuary and current sanctuary efforts in this area.