Miguel Ramirez Valiente, an undocumented immigrant, told reporters that he is seeking shelter in a Colorado church during the partial government shutdown because immigration courts have been shuttered, CNN reported Wednesday.
Ramirez said he is taking shelter in All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church in Colorado Springs as he seeks sanctuary.
He said he learned in December that he had been ordered removed from the U.S., but he has been unable to bring his case to immigration courts, which are closed due to the ongoing shutdown. During the shutdown, immigration judges are only hearing cases of detained immigrants, CNN reported.
“With the government shutdown, mail basically goes into a box,” his attorney, Lisa Guerra, told reporters, according to CNN. “There are no judges to decide that motion to reopen. There is no office of chief council to speak with about the case.”
“We are basically in legal limbo, waiting for the government to reopen,” she added.
Ramirez says he fled gang violence in El Salvador 14 years ago and he has been fighting to stay in the U.S. since he was taken into custody by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after a traffic stop in 2011.
He says he was unaware until recently that his case was reopened in October last year. Immigration authorities are claiming that he should be deported because he missed that court date.
“I’ve been fighting my case for eight years,” he said, CNN reported. “I never missed a court date.”
His wife, Alisha Ramirez Valiente, told reporters Wednesday that the shutdown is “tearing our family apart.” The couple has three children.
“The government shutdown is tearing our family apart,” Alisha told reporters. “My three children and I are terrified that he will be deported. His children need him. So do I. I hope that him being in sanctuary will give him enough time for the government to reopen and his motion to be reviewed.”
Valiente is staying in the Colorado church because immigration law prohibits ICE from making arrests in churches.
Ramirez is one of about 50 immigrants who have taken sanctuary in churches during President Trump’s administration, according to Church World Service.
The partial shutdown, which affects roughly 25 percent of the government, entered its 19th day on Wednesday.