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Activists: Mexican Who Sought Refuge in U.S. Church Detained

Hernandez spent nine months living in the basement of Denver's First Unitarian Church

Arturo Hernandez stands in his one-room basement dwelling in Denver, photo: AP/P. Solomon Banda, File
8 months ago

DENVER – A Mexican man who once sought sanctuary from deportation in a Colorado church was detained by federal immigration agents Wednesday morning as he went to a job site to install tile, activists who support his effort to stay in the U.S. said Wednesday.

Arturo Hernandez has a daughter who is a U.S. citizen and a second protected from deportation under an Obama administration program for people brought to the country illegally as children. His detention comes as the Trump administration charts a more aggressive approach to deportation than its predecessor.

Hernandez spent nine months living in the basement of Denver’s First Unitarian Church starting in October of 2014 after the Obama administration tried to deport him.

He had come to attention of immigration agents after being charged with assault for a workplace incident, even though he was acquitted at trial of criminal wrongdoing. Hernandez left the church and resumed working after the Obama administration assured him his case would no longer be a deportation priority.

Gabriela Flora of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) said Hernandez’s brother saw Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents detain Hernandez when he arrived at a warehouse to pick up tile for a job.

“They have terminated the priorities they use to have and the administration has said that anyone here without proper documents is deportable, and that’s not good for our community,” Flora said. “He, like so many people, is a father, a dedicated member of the community.”

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spokesman Carl Rusnok declined to comment on the case.

Hernandez, his wife and their then three-month-old daughter came legally from Mexico to the U.S. on a visa in 1999. They opted to stay past the visa’s expiration. Hernandez’s oldest daughter is now scheduled to graduate from high school next month. His youngest was born in the United States and is a citizen.

Another immigrant in the country illegally, Jeanette Vizguerra, is currently seeking refuge from deportation in the same Denver church basement. She was recently named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people of the year.

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