COLORADO SPRINGS – All Souls Unitarian Church in Colorado Springs is protesting immigration policies during the government shutdown by offering a family sanctuary.
It’s part of a national effort with a thousand other congregations to resist what they refer to inhumane policies.
Basically, they’re giving these families a place to stay while their legal status gets resolved – and hoping it’ll help prevent imminent deportation.
The man receiving sanctuary is 40-year-old Miguel Valiente.
He says he came to the US from El Salvador to escape gang violence.
*”That’s why everyone is leaving countries like mine, to flee from the violence,” said Valiente.
In 2011, he faced legal issues when he was arrested for not having a driver’s license.
His immigration case had been “administratively closed” – or essentially paused – but re-opened recently.
He says he missed a court date because he didn’t get notice in the mail – and the next piece of mail he got was a deportation notice.
“I’m scared to be deported and to be separated from my family,” he added.
According to Lisa Guerra, Valiente’s immigration attorney, since Valiente was the victim of an assault back in 2015, he qualifies for a U visa, which grants crime victims temporary immigration status.
The issue is most immigration courts are closed because of the government shutdown.
“He hasn’t had the ability to go in front of the judge and give out his case as to why he’s seeking asylum,” Guerra said.
And though lawyers are sending over documents to meet deadlines, they predict the shutdown will cause major delays.
“Where does it go when the government is shut down and nobody is processing the mail?” she contemplated.
And until it’s over, Valiente is hoping he’ll have a chance to make his case.
“You have to push forward,” he said.
“And have hope that everything will work out.”
A U visa can typically take up to four years to process.
As part of the shutdown, NBC News reports nearly 400 immigration judges have been furloughed.
*News 5’s Jessica Barreto translated Miguel Valiente’s interview from Spanish to English.