Minister facing deportation finds sanctuary in Durham church
Posted July 5
Durham, N.C. — A Raleigh minister on Wednesday joined the growing list of people facing deportation seeking sanctuary at North Carolina churches.
Rev. Jose Chicas, who fled a civil war in El Salvador three decades ago, was supposed to leave the U.S. last week. The School for Conversion, a Durham church, welcomed the 52-year-old pastor of Evangelica Jesus de la Iglesias as he continues to fight to remain in the country.
Chicas acknowledges that he has made mistakes in his past, including convictions for impaired driving and domestic violence in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and he said that record likely contributed to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement targeted him for imminent deportation.
But he insists that he has changed immensely since he was a young man and wants to stay in the Triangle with his wife and four children, three of whom are American citizens.
"Today, I stand in front of you asking authorities to reconsider my case," he said at a Wednesday morning news conference. "I do not want to be separated from my family or my family have a broken unit."
Area pastors, community leaders and state NAACP President Rev. William Barber stood with Chicas as he shared his story, and they also shared communion.
"We certainly should not be targeting to keep our Latino children of God out of this country, nor should we be using ICE to throw people out and destroy families," Barber said.
ICE has a policy that prohibits agents from making arrests at sensitive locations, such as churches and schools, but spokesman Bryan Cox said the policy doesn't vacate a deportation order. Cox declined to discuss Chicas' case.
Chicas was detained by immigration agents in Texas when he first came to the U.S. in 1985, but he said he was released on bail and that an attorney told him not to show up in court.
"I made the difficult decision to enter into sanctuary in order to fight legally my case," he said.
Two Greensboro churches also are providing sanctuary to people slated for deportation.
Juana Ortega, a grandmother from Guatemala, moved into St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in May, while Minerva Cisneros Garcia, who came to the U.S. 17 years ago to find a school for her blind son, went into the Congregational United Church of Christ last week.