DENVER — Two undocumented immigrants living in sanctuary in a Denver Church to avoid immigration officials have been granted stays of removal.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement granted Jeanette Vizguerra’s and Arturo Hernandez Garcia’s stay of removal applications, according to the Meyer Law Office.
Both had been living in the U.S. without proper documentation for more than a decade before Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested them separately this year.
Lawyer Hans Meyer said Vizguerra has been in a “nearly eight-year battle to remain in the country with her DACA-recipient daughter and three U.S. citizen children.”
Vizguerra walked out of First Baptist Church of Denver just after 8:30 a.m., flanked by numerous supporters.
will return to her family and to work while waiting for a response to her visa application, the Metro Denver Sanctuary Coalition said.
“Our system is tearing many other families apart,” Vizguerra said in a news release. “I will continue to lead the fight to keep families together, to grow the capacity of sanctuary and of my community to resist deportation and exploitation.”
She spent 86 days living in the church over fears she would be deported and separated from her three children.
“We offer our thanks to the good people at the Metro Denver Sanctuary Coalition, American Friends Service Committee, elected officials who have spoken out in support of her case, and all of Jeanette’s loved ones and friends. Most importantly, we extend our deepest gratitude to Jeanette Vizguerra herself,” Meyer said.
Vizguerra came to the U.S. from Mexico without proper documents in 1997. Her oldest daughter participates in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows undocumented people brought to the country as children to attend school and work.
Vizguerra has two misdemeanor convictions, for using a fake Social Security number to get a job and crossing the border illegally.
She didn’t attend a check-in with ICE earlier this year, instead taking sanctuary at First Unitarian Church then at the First Baptist Church of Denver.
Garcia overstayed his visitor’s visa in 2003 and was told to leave in 2010 after being arrested for a fight at work.
He took up sanctuary at First Unitarian in 2014 then left after being told he wasn’t an enforcement priority.
He was detained at his workplace last month but was recently released from ICE detention so he can attend his daughter’s graduation.
He was the first in Denver to try to avoid deportation by seeking sanctuary in a church.
Thursday night’s statement said he has also been granted a two-year stay of removal.
“I am pleased to hear that Jeanette and Arturo have been granted temporary stays,” Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado said. “We have been working closely with them on their cases — coordinating with their lawyers, and we introduced private bills for each in the Senate.
“These Coloradans have lived in our state for years, contributed to our economy and should never have been targets for deportation in the first place.”