AURORA, Colo. – Arturo Hernandez-Garcia, the undocumented man who was detained at work last week by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, was released from federal immigration custody late Tuesday and granted a reprieve to go to his daughter’s graduation, according to his lawyer.
Hernandez-Garcia was the first person in Colorado to seek sanctuary from deportation when he did so for nine months in 2014 and 2015 while he faced deportation.
Sen. Michael Bennet filed a private bill last week to keep the 44-year-old Mexican native safe from removal by ICE agents. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., had also filed one in 2015 on Hernandez-Garcia’s behalf.
Hernandez-Garcia’s lawyer, Laura Lichter, says she and her legal team has found “missed opportunities” with the process to become a permanent resident, and that he will now be able to attend his 17-year-old daughter’s high school graduation on May 15.
Lichter said in a statement that she and her team would ask an appeals court to revisit Hernandez-Garcia’s case.
A spokesperson for immigrants rights group the American Friends Service Committee said there was no definite time period for a reprieve.
He has the 17-year-old daughter, who is in the DACA process, and an 11-year-old child who is a U.S. citizen. An immigrants’ rights organization says he owns a subcontracting company that he’s ran since 2008.
Hernandez-Garcia first came to the U.S. through El Paso, Texas in January 2003 on a six-month work visa, according to ICE, but outstayed his visa. He was first targeted for deportation after his 2010 arrest on an assault charge for a fight at work – a charge that was later dropped.
In October 2012, a federal immigration judge granted a 60-day voluntary departure request, but those turned into final deportation orders in December 2012, when he failed to voluntarily remove himself from the U.S., according to ICE.
In 2014, an appeal of his deportation was dismissed, but the Board of Immigration Appeals extended his voluntary departure date through Aprill 2014. However, when he didn't leave, a final order of removal became active again, according to ICE. He had applications for stays of removal denied in May 2014 and March 2015, according to ICE.
ICE spokesman Carl Rusnok had said last week that Hernandez-Garcia would be held until his removal.
“I want to thank my lawyer, Congressman Perlmutter and Senator Bennet for their efforts on my behalf,” Hernandez-Garcia said in a statement. “I am so grateful to all of the community members who prayed and demonstrated for me. I felt stronger as I left the ICE office in Centennial because I saw my family and community standing outside. I want to thank most of all my wife and daughters who have fought so hard to keep our family together.”
“We want to thank ICE for recognizing our claims and allowing us this brief period to be together for our daughter’s graduation,” said Hernandez-Garcia’s wife, Ana Sauzameda. “Mariana is the reason we came to the US; to give her a better future.”
The First Unitarian Church, where Hernandez-Garcia was in sanctuary from October 2014 to July 2015, has also been a sanctuary haven for Jeanette Vizguerra, a Mexican national who took sanctuary at the church earlier this year when she was scheduled to be deported.
Vizguerra was named as one of TIME Magazine’s 100 most influential people of the year last week, and is one of at least two women in the Denver area currently in sanctuary.
In the past two weeks, an Aurora mother of four was deported and removed from the country without her children.
Denver and many other Colorado law enforcement officials have said they will only adhere to ICE holds if the agency can produce a legal warrant.