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MAPLEWOOD • Rep. William Lacy Clay says Alex Garcia, the Honduran immigrant from Poplar Bluff who has spent eight months in a church avoiding deportation by federal agents, deserves to stay in the United States.

How Clay can help Garcia, who met with the Democratic congressman at Christ Church for about 30 minutes Friday, is harder to say.

“We’re fishing,” Clay said. “We are fishing to figure out a way to get this young man reunited with his family by any means necessary.”

Garcia, 36, has been in the United States for 13 years, where he married and is raising five children, after fleeing the unstable political climate of Honduras. Crime and instability have only increased since Garcia left the country, which has been long considered among the most dangerous in Central America.

A few years back, he caught the attention of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Twice, he got a one-year reprieve to stay in the country. But last summer, under a new administration, his third request was denied. Rather than turn himself in for deportation, Garcia sought refuge in Maplewood.

Clay said his office would be in touch with ICE. He promised Garcia he would return to the church one day to watch Garcia walk out a free man.

“Alex has been a model citizen, loved by his community, and there are people all over Missouri saying this about him,” Clay said. “I’m certain the voters of my district would feel the same way.”

Of the approach by President Donald Trump’s administration to immigration policy, which has emphasized deportations as well as reducing legal immigration and building a border wall with Mexico, Clay didn’t mince words: “It’s evil,” he said.

“It’s cruel, and it’s a denial on their part of the blackening and browning of America,” Clay said. ‘They can’t stop it. America is diverse, and they can’t stop it.”

Every weekend Garcia’s family, with children between the ages of 3 and 11, makes the 150-mile drive to be with him in his small apartment in the church. Carly, Garcia’s wife, said meeting the congressman gave her a little hope the situation may be resolved positively for her family.

“It’s hard not to feel like the whole world is against you,” Carly said. “The waiting is agonizingly painful.”

Garcia, a construction worker, spends most of his time on weekdays helping out around the church, including maintenance and renovation work. He said the process is “one day at a time.”

“I dream about getting out, doing my normal routine, being with my family,” Garcia said.

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