El Salvadoran citizen Miguel Ramirez Valiente has taken sanctuary in Colorado Springs’ All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church as a shield against deportation while the government shutdown continues. He has lived in the church for almost a week.
Ramirez Valiente, whose wife and children are all U.S. citizens, said he did not receive a mail notification of a court date for his case. The missed court date resulted in his deportation order. Despite an enormous backlog, the lapse in government agency funding has crimped the processing and adjudication of immigration hearings nationwide.
Deportations, however, have continued during the partial government closure.
“I have been fighting my case for eight years and I have never missed a court date,” Ramirez Valiente said through an interpreter during a news conference inside the church. “It is unjust that they are trying to deport me due to a problem with the mail.”
With the shutdown in its 19th day, President Donald Trump and Democrats remain at an impasse over Trump’s $5.7 billion request for to pay for a border wall. A Wednesday White House meeting ended abruptly after the president walked out. Trump took to Twitter to dismiss his audience with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer as a “total waste of time.”
Ramirez Valiente’s lawyer, Lisa Guerra, said a motion filed to reopen his case cannot be processed because of the partial government shutdown.
“There are no judges to decide that motion to reopen,” Guerra said. “We are basically in legal limbo.”
An email sent to Immigration and Customs Enforcement in regard to Ramires Valiente’s case received an automatic reply. ICE public affairs officers are furloughed due to the nationwide shutdown.
In his nationally televised Oval Office address, the president said the government only remains closed because of the Democrats refusal to fund his border security measures.
“America proudly welcomes millions of lawful immigrants who enrich our society and contribute to our nation, but all Americans are hurt by uncontrolled illegal migration,” Trump said.
Ramires Valiente entered the country illegally 14 years ago to flee gang violence in his native El Salvador. A 2011 traffic stop in Castle Rock started his deportation proceedings, though his case was administratively closed in 2017 due to to his application for a so-called “U-visa” for victims of criminal activity. Ramirez Valiente was attacked at a construction site where he worked in 2015 and and was eligible to apply.
Yet, a judge reopened his deportation case in 2018, which led to Ramirez Valiente’s missed court date.
All Souls Minister Nori Rost said Ramirez Valiente is welcome to sanctuary in her church as long as he needs. The broader Unitarian church has publicly offered sanctuary in response to the president’s immigration policies. Most recently, the Springs’ church protected an El Salvadoran man in sanctuary for four months in 2017.