Alex And Carly Garcia Open Up About ‘Having My Best Friend All Over Again’
In late February, Honduran immigrant and longtime Missourian Alex Garcia left the Maplewood church where he'd been living in sanctuary for 1,252 days.
Garcia’s emotional entrance into a more normal life came just weeks after a shift in U.S. presidential administrations — and in the priorities of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“I was very excited,” he told St. Louis on the Air this week, recalling that powerful moment on the steps of Christ Church. “[I was most excited] to be with the family, to go out.”
In conversation with host Sarah Fenske, Garcia remembered how his five children longed to go to the park with him during the 3½ years he was confined to the church.
“I wasn’t available to do those kinds of things, but that day … for me and my family, it was an exciting moment,” he said.
Along with a stop for some celebratory ice cream, the family made an immediate trip to a local park during that first afternoon of freedom.
“[It was] new for me to be outside,” Garcia said.
Now that the Garcias have spent nearly three months reunited, Alex and his wife, Carly, discussed the transition and their hopes for the future.
“Us being back together, living as husband and wife again, it’s great,” Carly said. “It’s like having my best friend all over again after not seeing him for years.”
For the couple’s children, Alex’s return home has also been a welcome change.
“They think they can get away [with] everything,” Carly said, laughing. “I mean, Dad’s home — it doesn’t matter anymore. They’re loving it.”
And Alex himself is loving the louder environment, after spending such a long period within a generally quiet church building.
“I was missing those loud moments,” he said.
Carly noted that while this spring has been a time of great joy for her family, the anxiety they have dealt with for years, because of the continued lack of a legal pathway to U.S. citizenship for Alex, hasn’t gone away.
“From my understanding, right now there’s no pathway for Alex — not to adjust through me, not to adjust in any way other than to leave the country for 10 to 15 years,” Carly said. “So unless laws are changed, there is nothing for Alex.”
“I’m still with that fear,” Alex added, “because I haven’t gotten my [permanent] status yet. That fear is still there.”
U.S. Rep. Cori Bush, D-St. Louis County, introduced a private bill in Congress earlier this year that would grant Alex permanent residency and provide a pathway to citizenship and the ability to legally return to work.
Hard work is something that those well acquainted with Alex, who worked in construction for many years prior to taking sanctuary in the church, cite as one of his defining personal characteristics.
“Not being able to work, even though he’s free — it’s hard,” Carly said. “That’s why we need more. That’s why Congresswoman Cori Bush introduced the private bill for Alex, because that is an action that can be taken. And that’s why we need ICE to give Alex a stay of removal with an order of supervision so he can get a work permit so he can work. That’s the fastest way to do it.”
She added: “If Alex is not a priority [for deportation], and they say he’s not, then just give him what he needs to support his family. Because that’s all he wants to do — he wants to work, he wants to support his family. He wants to love his children, he wants to love his wife, and that’s all we want. We want to love him, and we just need that, and we need him to be able to work so that we can be able to function as civilized people.”
“St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.