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Olivia Vazquez translates a statement from Javier Flora, the man staying at Arch St. Methodist Church, after a deportation order from ICE officials.
Olivia Vazquez translates a statement from Javier Flora, the man staying at Arch St. Methodist Church, after a deportation order from ICE officials.

Caravan for Freedom fights to get justice for local man seeking asylum from ICE

Representatives from Juntos and the Arch Street Methodist Church are taking part in a ride from Philadelphia to Vermont to campaign for a conclusion to the…

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As Mexican immigrant Javier Flores Garcia stood in front of a podium surrounded by his family and friends, there was a sense of joy in the air.

Despite being confined to the basement of Arch Street Methodist Church in Center City since November, seeking refuge from Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officials, Garcia smiled and played with his three children as they announced the departure of the "Caravan for Freedom."

A four-day ride that will go from Philadelphia to Vermont, it is the basis of a campaign to Garcia a valid Visa for those who have suffered harm while in the United States. Holding 10 of Garcia's supporters the end goal is to have U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to grant his pending petition for legal residency.

Garcia's notable supporters extended from Councilwoman Helen Gym to Reverend Robin Hynicka who spoke passionately about Garcia's case but also the immigration policies of President Donald Trump's administration and the city.

“These freedom riders establish a moral presence for how we are going to have discussions about the central values of the country,” said Councilwoman Gym.

While ICE officials have avoided churches, it has allowed establishments such as Arch Street Methodist to rise up and serve as protection to immigrant communities as immigration officials tend to avoid them nad other places such as schools.

“We are taking this moment to leave Philadelphia, which is supposed to be a place of liberty, on a mission we hope will liberate [families like Garcia’s] from a set of policies that have, for the most part, discriminated, oppressed, and left people in the cold,” said the Rev. Robin Hynicka, leader of Arch Street Methodist Church and fellow freedom rider.

Among the small crowd there for the send-off were City Councilwoman Helen Gym and Sandra Garcia, a Latino affairs adviser for U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.). 

By late morning, the passengers — including Garcia’s wife, Alma Romero, and their three U.S.-born children, daughter Adamaris, 13, and sons Javier Jr., 5, and Yael, 3 — were boarding a 15-seat van lent by Thorndale United Methodist Church for the drive from Philadelphia to the federal government’s visa processing center in St. Albans, Vt., where Garcia’s case is pending. They expect to arrive Thursday, after stops at sanctuary-oriented churches in New York, Boston, and Burlington, Vt. Along with bringing national attention to the case, they intend to collect letters of support to deliver in St. Albans. They have more than 200 already, plus 600 signatures on an online petition.

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