Bennet filed private legislation – usually aimed at specific people’s situations, often involving immigration cases – on Thursday to try and stop Hernandez-Garcia from being deported. He also reached out to ICE to request a time extension in deciding Hernandez-Garcia’s case.
“Arturo has been a valued member of our community for nearly two decades,” Bennet said in a statement. “As a business owner, he has contributed to our economy and has always worked hard to support his family. He should not be a priority for deportation.”
Hernandez-Garcia was among the first undocumented immigrants in the country to use a church as a place of sanctuary from federal agents when he spent 9 months at Denver’s First Unitarian Church in 2015.
He left the church after he was told he wasn’t a priority for deportation, despite ICE having given him final removal orders.
ICE spokesman Carl Rusnok told Denver7 earlier this week that Hernandez-Garcia would be held in ICE custody until he is removed.
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.
Hernandez-Garcia has a wife and two daughters – one of whom was born in the U.S., which generally kept him safe under the Obama administration’s directive that protected undocumented parents of citizen children.
The First Unitarian Church 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.
Bennet also issued a private bill seeking relief for Vizguerra in March. His calls for relief come amid an increased focus under the Donald Trump administration to deport anyone living in the country illegally – something Bennet has been loudly opposed to.
He called Hernandez-Garcia’s case “yet another example of this Administration’s misguided immigration policies that do not align with our national priorities and values.”
It’s unclear exactly what effect, if any, the private bill might have on Hernandez-Garcia’s case at this time.