U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay is asking the country’s immigration enforcement agency to let Alex Garcia, a man evading deportation by living in a Maplewood church, go home to his Poplar Bluff, Mo., family without fear of being sent back to Honduras.
“Alex is a family man, is not a danger to the community and should be reunited with his U.S. citizen wife and five U.S. citizen children,” Clay, D-St. Louis, wrote in a letter to Ricardo A. Wong, director of the Chicago office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.
As Clay points out in his letter, dated June 27 but made public by his office on Tuesday, Garcia came to the country illegally about 14 years ago. Once on the radar of ICE, Garcia was granted a Stay of Removal in 2015 and again in 2016. But last year, under President Donald Trump’s administration, Garcia’s request to stay in the country for another year was denied.
Faced with deportation, Garcia, now 37, worked with a St. Louis immigration advocacy group to seek sanctuary and tapped Christ Church United Church of Christ, a small congregation that had pledged to be a place to live for those facing deportation.
In 2011, ICE enacted a policy designating “sensitive locations” where officials would not likely enforce immigration laws. The locations include churches, schools and hospitals.
Garcia was the first person to seek sanctuary in Missouri. In May, members of Eliot Unitarian Chapel in Kirkwood voted to become the second sanctuary church in the St. Louis region but have not yet been asked for help.
Clay’s letter comes after he visited with Garcia on May 25.
“We’re fishing,” Clay said in May. “We are fishing to figure out a way to get this young man reunited with his family by any means necessary.” He told Garcia during his 30-minute visit that the congressman’s office would be in touch with ICE and Clay promised Garcia he would return to the church one day to watch Garcia walk out a free man.
“I respectfully request that you grant him a Stay of Removal for at least one year,” Clay said in his letter to Wong. “Exercising prosecutorial discretion in Alex’s case would not adversely impact any of the department’s primary goals. However, if the stay is denied, Alex has no alternate means of reuniting with his family. Separation would pose an extreme hardship for his entire family, financially and emotionally.”
An email to ICE seeking comment was not immediately returned.