O’FALLON, “M” () – US envoy Cory Bush on Monday passed legislation to grant permanent residency to Honduran immigrant Alex Garcia, who has spent more than three years inside a Missouri church to avoid deportation.
Bush, a Democrat from St. Louis, announced a private bill that would allow a married father of five to leave his long stay at the United Church of Christ Church in Mlewood, St. Louis. The church has granted him asylum since 2017, when the federal government found it difficult to deport him. Garcia entered the United States illegally in 2004.
Garcia told a news conference on “Zoom” that he hoped the bill would become a “path to freedom”.
“I miss spending time with my family outside the church,” Garcia said. “It was difficult for me to watch my children grow up and learn without me.”
Garcia is among dozens of people who have taken to shrines during President Donald Trump’s administration to avoid deportation. Many They said they hoped to obtain citizenship under President Biden.
During his first weeks in office, Biden signed several executive immigration decrees that undermined his predecessor’s policies, although several Republican lawmakers called for legal challenges to ban those decrees.
Garcia escaped extreme poverty and violence in Honduras, his lawyers said in an interview last month. He jumped on a train he thought was heading to Houston, but instead landed in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, 17 years ago.
He got a job, met his wife, Carl, a U.S. citizen, and lived with his family in a small Missouri town for more than a decade.
In 2015, Garcia accompanied her sister to the immigration office to register. Officials there realized that Garcia was illegal in that country. During the Barack Obama administration, he received a two-year delay.
But after Trump took office in 2017, the third denial request was rejected. Garcia seemed destined to be deported until the Church of the Assumption received him.
Pastor Becky Turner said Garcia quickly emerged as a valued part of the church family.
“I watched him make beds for the homeless on cold winter nights,” Turner said. “I watched as he cared for our church members who needed something fixed or built or found. Alex’s guest quickly became Alex’s host. “
“The country needs more people like Alex,” Turner said.
The private bill provides benefits to specific individuals; they are often sought in the event of administrative or legal remedies. Immigration is a common problem. Only four private bills have been signed since 2007, Bush said.
“This is not going to be an easy fight, but it has never stopped us, it will not stop us today,” Bush said. “We are with Alex, we will not rest until he is released, he is not protected from the most inhuman element of our country’s immigration system.”
In Missouri, Bush’s predecessor, William Lacey Clay, also tried to pass a personal bill on behalf of Garcia, but failed.
Still, Garcia’s wife said the new private bill is hopeful.
“For the last three and a half years we have been living in this cycle of trauma, it has been unbearable,” said Carly Garcia.