United States

Mexican Father Seeks Sanctuary From Deportation at Philadelphia Church

A Mexican immigrant who had been living in northeast Philadelphia has relocated to a local church where he is now seeking sanctuary from deportation by federal authorities.

Juntos, a south Philadelphia immigrant support group, says 40-year-old Javier Flores moved into Arch Street United Methodist Church on Sunday.

"People are afraid. We've never seen this amount of hatred and vitriol towards our community," said Miguel Andrade, who works at Juntos. 

The father of three U.S.-born children is eligible for a "U-Visa," which the federal government provides to victims of certain crimes who have suffered mental or physical abuse.

If Flores' visa application is denied, he will be deported after 90 days. Flores recently spent 16 months at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Detention Center in Pike County, according to Juntos.

He was detained because he was previously deported but returned to the United States to reunite with his family. [[401056395, C]]

Immigration attorneys across the country are figuring out how to navigate a "scary, uncertain environment" in the wake of Donald Trump's election, American Immigration Lawyers Association executive director Benjamin Johnson told NBC last week. He said he's advising the D.C. organization's more than 14,000 members to prepare their clients for the worst — Trump has promised to deport millions of undocumented immigrants. 

Juntos is advocating for President Barack Obama to shut down his deportation program so it won't pass on to Trump.

"If we can provide some sense of hope and relief in saying that this is an act that people can do and to stand up against a government that is actively trying to destroy their families, I hope that more people will do this," Andrade said at the Arch Street church.

Another immigrant was successful in seeking reprieve from deportation in the Philadelphia area in January 2015. Angela Navarro lived at the West Kensington Ministry with her husband, an American citizen, and two U.S-born children in order to avoid deportation to Honduras more than 10 years after being picked up while entering the country without documents.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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