DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — A community in Durham has built a sanctuary for a pastor facing deportation. On June 27, Pastor Jose Chicas was scheduled to be deported by immigration officials.
Instead, his community and church came to his defense.
“I feel really happy because of the community in this surrounding, and every member … of the community,” said Chicas.
School for Conversion, a religious education center in Durham, offered sanctuary for the pastor who’s been preaching for more than 20 years.
Chicas fled his native El Salvador during its civil war in the 1980s, seeking asylum in the United States. In the 1990s, before Chicas and his wife experienced a spiritual conversion, he struggled with alcoholism. During that time, he was charged with and pleaded guilty to driving under the influence and domestic abuse.
He has since turned his life around, but he says he’s been targeted as a “criminal” by immigration authorities.
“It’s time for the church, it’s time for faith communities, and I don’t mean just Christian, to step up,” said Rev. Dr. William Barber II, who is joining the fight to keep pastor Chicas in North Carolina. He said his stance is led by his religion.
“This is just wrong,” said Barber. “It’s wrong in so many ways. So, we come in that tradition, in the tradition of faith.”
While Chicas doesn’t know what tomorrow brings, he’s staying to connected to his religion and community through it all.
“I’m feeling full with my faith. I will continue to pray for my church. I pray and pray and read the bible,” said Chicas.
The School for Conversion has given immigration officials notice of the sanctuary for Chicas, but chuch officials they have not gotten a response.