Denver church offers sanctuary to undocumented immigrant fighting deportation

A 41-year-old Mexican immigrant in the country illegally has moved into the basement of a church in Denver and is claiming sanctuary from deportation.

Arturo Hernandez Garcia, a 41-year-old contractor originally from the state of Chihuahua, left his wife and two daughters to move into the First Unitarian Society of Denver on Tuesday. On Sunday, the church held an official welcoming ceremony, offering him sanctuary.

"Our attorney notified all the appropriate authorities that Arturo would reside here at First Unitarian for the immediate future," Kate Burns, a member of the First Unitarian Denver congregation, told the Denver Post.

The church and has been circulating petitions asking for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to drop the deportation proceeding against Hernandez Garcia, according to the Rev. Mike Moran.

"I want the public to know about my case,” Hernandez Garcia told the Post after the welcoming ceremony. “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."

When contacted by the Associated Press on Sunday, ICE officials cited a policy of not pursuing people wanted for immigration violations into sensitive areas, including schools and churches, unless there is an immediate need or exception, such as national security or anti-terrorism enforcement.

Hernandez Garcia’s case came to the attention of U.S. officials in 2010 after physical altercation at a construction site with another contractor.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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