Sanctuary Churches | St. Louis Public Radio

Sanctuary Churches

Alex and Carly Garcia listen to a Sunday sermon which kicked off a "week of action" in support of their family.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

When immigration authorities ordered Alex Garcia to turn himself in for deportation last year, his wife Carly decided to fight to keep her family together.

Instead of driving to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement office, where Alex would be jailed then sent back to his native Honduras, the couple drove 150 miles to a church in Maplewood.

It’s now been one year since Alex took sanctuary at Christ Church, United Church of Christ.

Carly and Alex Garcia meet with U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay at Christ Church in Maplewood on May 25, 2018. Alex Garcia has been living in sanctuary at the church since September.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay is calling on federal immigration officials to approve a stay of removal for Alex Garcia, who took sanctuary in a Maplewood church nearly 10 months ago.

Garcia, 37, moved into the church in September after immigration officials ordered him to report for deportation. A stay of removal would give Garcia temporary permission to remain in the United States and allow him to move back to his home in Poplar Bluff.

Alex Garcia jokes with his 3-year-old daughter, AriannaLee, while sitting with kids before the start of a church service.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Alex Garcia has lived in Poplar Bluff, Missouri for 15 years. In the past, he received permission to remain in the U.S. even though he entered the country without authorization. But in September, Immigration and Customs Enforcement ordered him to report to its St. Louis sub-field office for deportation.

Alex Garcia poses for a portrait at Christ Church United Church of Christ, where he’s taking sanctuary.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

When the letter from immigration officials came in the mail in September, Carly Garcia knew her life was about to change.

Panicked, she opened the envelope then called her husband, Alex, and told him to rush home.

In the past, immigration agents had given Alex Garcia temporary permission to live in the United States with Carly and their five children. But now, the letter said, he had two weeks to report to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement office for deportation.