A Mexican couple who have been living and working in the United States for 15 years have been forced to seek sanctuary in the basement of a church in Denver after deportation proceeding were triggered following an encounter with a racially abusive man.
41-year-old Arturo Hernandez Garcia and his wife Ana, 40, came to the country in 1999 on a legal US visa, according to the Denver Post. Garcia’s father and mother-in-law have citizenship and the couple, who also have two children, tried to get legal residency after their visa expired but were unsuccessful. Four years ago, while working on a building site, an argument with a fellow contractor who was using racial slurs saw Garcia arrested, only to be found not guilty.
Garcia’s innocence in this matter did not stop his case being flagged by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, however, which began deportation proceedings against him. The Garcia’s were officially offered sanctuary by the First Unitarian Society of Denver at the weekend. “We welcomed Arturo Hernandez Garcia into our church, and our attorney notified all the appropriate authorities that Arturo would reside here at First Unitarian for the immediate future,” says Kate Burns, a member of the church.
Burns says the church is trying to pressure Immigration and Customs Enforcement into stopping the deportation order and also intends to bombard the agency with petitions. Garcia insists that he wants his case to be brought to the public’s attention. “There are so many families just like mine that have come here to work and look for a future for our children… we are a part of this country and not a threat,” he says.