Denver man detained by ICE speaks out after granted stay of removal

Posted at 11:20 PM, May 03, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-04 01:20:30-04

DENVER -- A Denver man arrested by ICE officers last week spoke for the first time since he was granted a stay of removal. He was the first undocumented immigrant to claim sanctuary in Colorado and his experience is one shared by Jeanette Vizguerra, also an undocumented immigrant and activist.

They both met at First Baptist Church, where Vizguerra is temporarily taking sanctuary to talk about their ongoing immigration battles. Hernandez Garcia was given a 30-day stay of removal to attend his daughter’s high school graduation.

They are used to the cameras and the attention because it's part of their public fight to stay in Colorado.

"Everybody that is in sanctuary is family. This is family," said Vizguerra.

One of Time’s 100 most influential people, Jeanette Vizguerra, an undocumented immigrant living in sanctuary, has a lot in common with Arturo Hernandez-Garcia. He was arrested by ICE officers last week, which was a complete change in direction after federal officials told him in 2015 he was not a deportation priority. He had no warning when they came for him at his job.

"I feel like a criminal when I don't do anything," said Hernandez-Garcia. "One guy coming for me and asking me are you Arturo? I said, 'yes.'"

Married with two daughters, he's been in Colorado for 17 years and has no criminal record.

He too, lived in a church for protection from immigration officers for a few years, but now they both say the tides are turning.

"[It's a] clear attack on the sanctuary movement," said Vizguerra.

Garcia is only free for 30 days to see his daughter graduate, after that, it's unclear what will happen.

But even so, the unknown in both their lives pushes them to fight to stay in a country -- and city -- they call home.

"The American community, now they know we are not criminals. We are coming here for work, to try for a better future for our kids,” said Hernandez-Garcia.

Local legislators have introduced private bills for both of them, hoping to help them stay in the United States.

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