Salvadoran unable to fight deportation due to shutdown seeks sanctuary in Colorado Springs church

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COLORADO SPRINGS, (The Gazette) - A married father of three moved into a Colorado Springs church on Wednesday to avoid deportation while his immigration application remained stalled due to the partial government shutdown.

Miguel Ramirez Valiente is the second immigrant to seek sanctuary at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church, 730 N. Tejon St., since President Donald Trump took office and ordered a crackdown on immigrants living in the country illegally.

Churches have been a decades-long haven for immigrants seeking refuge from deportation, due to a Reagan-era Immigration and Customs Enforcement policy dissuading agents from entering “sensitive locations,” including hospitals, schools and churches.

Valiente's case is different in that it appears to stem from the partial federal government shutdown which began Dec. 22 over Trump's demand for $5 billion to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. On Friday, Trump responded to Democrats' refusal to fund the wall by saying the shutdown could last months or years.

“Miguel’s rights to due process are being violated," said his attorney, Lisa Guerra, in a statement. "He has a compelling and strong legal case and we are waiting for the government to reopen in order to fully pursue all legal options available to him.”

Valiente fled gang violence and death threats in El Salvador more than 14 years ago, according to the Colorado Springs Sanctuary Coalition. Since 2011, he has pursued "several legal avenues for relief," but has been unable to submit the paperwork necessary to fight a deportation order, due to the Denver Immigration Court's closure, the coalition said.

His wife and three children — ages 4, 10, and 12 — are all United States citizens, said Siena Mann, a spokeswoman for the coalition.

Click here to read the full story by 11 News partner The Gazette.