Man who spent year in church to avoid deportation walks free

Javier Flores Garcia, an undocumented Mexican immigrant facing deportation, sought and received sanctuary in the Arch Street United Methodist Church in Philadelphia. He cradles his 4-year-old son, Javier, with his wife, Alma, and daughter, Adamaris, by his side inside the church, where he was granted sanctuary on Nov. 13, 2016. Photo courtesy of Hille

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A man who’d been living in a Philadelphia church for nearly a year to avoid deportation to Mexico has walked free.

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Javier Flores Garcia left the Arch Street Methodist Church on Wednesday (Oct. 11), surrounded by his family.

Garcia crossed into the U.S. without proper paperwork in 1997 and had been caught and returned to Mexico multiple times.

In 2004, Garcia was stabbed and worked with the government to capture the men responsible. His actions made him eligible for a special type of visa for people who help police.

Garcia’s attorney says his client has been granted deferred action, which allows him to live and work in the country.

Garcia took sanctuary in the church last November, when he was to report for deportation. He says he plans to stay in Philadelphia.

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The Associated Press