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Man in sanctuary in Durham watches election, hopes to reunite with family

A man fled civil war in El Salvador over 30 years ago, and in 2017 he was supposed to leave the country. Instead he sought sanctuary at a Durham church. He's been there ever since -- apart from his wife and children -- because if he leaves he can be arrested and deported.

Posted Updated

By
Leslie Moreno
, WRAL multimedia journalist
DURHAM, N.C. — A man fled civil war in El Salvador over 30 years ago, and in 2017 he was supposed to leave the country.

Instead he sought sanctuary at a Durham church.

He’s been there ever since – and has been following this election very closely, as he believes the outcome could determine his future.

It’s been a tough last 8 months for Americans who have had to isolate because of the pandemic. But for Jose Chicas this is nothing new.

“I’ve lived in this house for 3 years and 4 months,” he said.

He is desperately missing his wife and four kids – but he is unable to step foot outside of church property. If he does, ICE agents can arrest him and deport him to El Salvador.

He admits he’s made mistakes in the past – including convictions for impaired driving and domestic violence in the 80’s and 90’s. Chicas said that his record likely contributed to his current situation.

“This is jail you know because I can’t go outside,” he said.

A normal day for Chicas consists of morning prayer and virtual mass. He makes his own lunch and dinner with food provided by his community.

He watches the election closely to see if it will impact his situation.

“I watch everyday," he said.

According to former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign website, if elected, he would welcome immigrants in our communities while pursing policies that safeguard the future.

President Trump said he supports moving the country to a merit-based immigration system – one that would end immigration based on family ties.

Unable to vote - Chicas can only watch from his couch.

He is aware his future may be in the hands of others.

“This is a very important election," he said. "I ask all American citizens to go out and vote."

Chicas says depending on the outcome of the election, he is hoping to move forward with his case, leave this house and finally be reunited with his wife and four children in Raleigh.​

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