Man exits Maplewood church after years in sanctuary from deportation

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MAPLEWOOD, Mo. – Alex Garcia walked out of a Maplewood church for the first time Wednesday after spending 3 1/2 years there under the protection of sanctuary. 

Garcia, his wife, and their five kids stood on the steps of Christ Church UCC waving and thanking a crowd of community members.  

The church took in Garcia in 2017 after ICE told him he had two weeks to appear before them and prepare for deportation. This meant Garcia would likely never get to see his wife and kids again.  

A Honduran immigrant, Garcia had lived in Poplar Bluff for 11 years before being hit with this news. Garcia didn’t gain legal citizenship after marrying his American wife because he had been deported once before for illegal entry.  

Instead of leaving his family, Garcia sought sanctuary at Christ Church UCC.  

After living in the church and separated from his family for over three years, ICE has declared that Garcia is no longer a priority for deportation.  

Leaving the church Wednesday, the community cheered Garcia and his family. The mayor of Maplewood also presented him with a key to the city.  

Garcia said he celebrated leaving sanctuary after being separated from his family for more than 1,500 days. Garcia’s wife said they are celebrating this win today but still fighting for permanent protection for him.  

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