Fearing deportation, Araceli Velasquez finds reprieve in a Denver … – The Denver Post

Posted By on August 20, 2017

Araceli Velasquez had an appointment with immigration officers, as shed had many times in the past. But this time, she didnt show up.

Instead of appearing for her check-in on Aug. 9, Velasquez and her family sought refuge inside Park Hill United Methodist Church and Temple Micah synagogue Aug. 8. She plans to stay there indefinitely to avoid being separated from her husband and her three young children.

Velasquez lost a request for asylum last year and was given a year-long stay of deportation. Immigration authorities have since indicated that they would not renew that protection, meaning she faces deportation, said Jennifer Piper of the American Friends Service Committee. Velazquez fled El Salvador in 2010 when her life was threatened and the possibility of being forced to return there was a risk she wasnt willing to take.

PHUMC and Temple Micah are the newest religious congregations to join the Metro Denver Sanctuary Coalition ,bringing its total to 11. The two communities share a place of worship on Montview Boulevard.

Its an honor and a privilege to stand up for Araceli and her family, said Rabbi Adam Morris. It feels right. Its what our tradition teaches and with the tone of our country, weve certainly felt that more poignantly.

It was in March of this year that the leaders of the congregations met to discuss the idea of becoming a sanctuary congregation. Steve Holz-Russell, a layman for PHUMC was galvanized by the idea and worked to start a sanctuary task force.

It started with educating ourselves, Holz-Russell said. We had a meeting to talk about issues and then we voted. There was an overwhelming vote in favor to doing this.

Their 100-year-old building became the perfect location for the Velasquez family. They are currently staying in the youth center while a more permanent location is being renovated. The space will have a common area, bedroom, bathroom and kitchenette to provide a safe, comfortable and accepting place, Morris said.

This is the first time that the congregations have given someone sanctuary, but religious institutions have long offered protection for immigrants.Religious sanctuary is not a legal protection against deportation agents, but immigration authorities have beenhesitant to enter houses of worship.

Velasquez walked from El Salvador and arrived on our Mexican border requesting asylum. She was detained for one month and a half in a Texas immigration facility before being released. Velasquez then made her way to Colorado and it was here that she met her husband Jorge, who has temporary protected status in the country. They have three children: 4-year-old Jorge, 2-year-old Christopher and 10-month-old Kevin who are all U.S. citizens.

Velasquez is not the first immigrant to request sanctuary as a reprieve from deportation in Colorado, but the fifth. In Denver, Jeanette Vizguerra and Arturo Hernandez Garcialeft sanctuaryafter winning two-year stays of deportation.Ingrid Latorre received a shorter reprieve. Rosa Sabido claimed sanctuary inMancos on June 2.

I think there are a lot of people in the same circumstances as Araceli, Piper said. Many people decide to return to their home country or relocate elsewhere in the U.S. It takes a very strong person to give up their freedom to got into sanctuary to try and keep their family together

Further information in Velasquezs case wasnt immediately available. The action is being organized through the Metro Denver Sanctuary Committee.

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Fearing deportation, Araceli Velasquez finds reprieve in a Denver ... - The Denver Post

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