Immigrant leaves Denver church after nine months of sanctuary

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Arturo Hernandez Garcia walked out of First Unitarian Church in Denver after taking sanctuary nine months ago to fight deportation.

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DENVER -- Arturo Hernandez Garcia walked out of a Denver church Tuesday after taking sanctuary nine months ago to fight deportation, saying immigration officials have told him in a letter that he is no longer a priority to be deported.

"This is a partial victory in my case," Garcia said.

Garcia had been living at First Unitarian Church near Denver's Cheesman Park since Oct. 21. He came to the U.S. in 1999 on a six-month tourist visa but decided to stay. He married his wife Ana, and the couple has two children, Mariana, 15, and Andrea, 9.

In 2010, Garcia was arrested after a fight at work, changing his immigration status. He was found not guilty but was still ordered by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials to leave the U.S. on Oct. 21.

Instead, not wanting to leave his family, Garcia took sanctuary in the church, where an official said last fall there is a policy with ICE that it will not come to a church or school property to arrest someone for deportation.

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