Over the last eleven months, the days and nights of Mr. Javier Flores Garcia were monotonous. He spent his hours mostly inside a Center City Philadelphia church, where he sought and received, after the November presidential election, sanctuary from deportation. While there, Mr. Flores single-handedly painted nearly the entire building, which sits on the corner of Broad & Arch Streets, and contributed richly to the church, said the Reverend Robin Hynicka, who has served the congregation for more than a decade.
On Wednesday morning, at the Arch Street Methodist Church, Mr. Garcia sat on the stage sandwiched between his lawyer, Mr. Brennan Gian-Grasso, and Ms. Erika Almiron, who leads the immigrant-rights organization that helped secure Mr. Garcia’s sanctuary and ensuing freedom. Indeed, the South Philadelphia-based Juntos is as much a part of the story as the church which housed the undocumented immigrant who as of Wednesday was freed and reunited with his family. Ms. Almiron promised Mr. Garcia’s teenage daughter that her father would come home, and today “that promised is fulfilled.”
Mr. Garcia played with, and kissed, his two young sons while the press conference commenced. No word was spoken by Mr. Garcia to the news media until he stepped outside the church that had been his shelter for almost a year. And when he did offer remarks, among the things he uttered was his desire to run around and play further with his children.
“He’s had to struggle just to be in the presence of his family,” Rev. Hynicka said.
Before Mr. Garcia found sanctuary in 2016, he had been subjected to previous deportations due him continuously re-entering the country to be with his loved-ones.
“It’s a fierce love that wouldn’t let family go,” said the reverend, who described Mr. Garcia as having all the attributes of a good neighbor.
Roughly three months before taking up residence at the Arch Street Methodist Church, Mr. Garcia was housed at the York and Pike Detention Centers. Upon his release from there, he was given 90 days to get his papers in order but that proved to be not enough time. As a last resort, Mr. Garcia – who in 2004 was stabbed and left for dead but nonetheless assisted police in capturing his attackers – sought sanctuary.
“We had two weeks to ready a room” for Mr. Garcia, the reverend disclosed during a WURD Radio interview which preceded the Wednesday morning press conference.
According to Mr. Gian-Grasso – who over the last eleven months was able to persuade higher powers that his client was eligible for, and should receive, a U-Visa – any legal arguments pertaining to Mr. Garcia’s case is over, as are any threats of deportation. Mr. Garcia has been permitted a period of deferred action and within a year-or-so should obtain the U-Visa.
“Love wins today,” Rev. Hynicka declared.
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Photo courtesy of the author.