DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — After spending more than three and half years living in a church sanctuary to avoid deportation, José Chicas packed up to head home to his family in Raleigh.
President Biden’s new executive order pauses certain deportations for the next 100 days, which allows Chicas the peace of mind to leave without fear of being arrested.
“The first thing, I go to my house, I go straight to my house,” Chicas said of the first thing he’ll do once he leaves.
Because of a decades-old criminal record, Chicas was ordered to be deported back to his home country of El Salvador in 2017. Instead of leaving, Chicas found sanctuary at the School for Conversion in Durham, a place of worship where immigration agents can’t make arrests.
Chicas told CBS 17 he hasn’t been able to step foot off church property since arriving in June 2017. However, his family has been allowed to visit.
“I never forget this place, never,” he said. “Thank you, thank you God for Durham, for this community, thank you God for this house and the church pastor he gives support to me. It’s beautiful, the family I made here.”
Under Biden’s executive order, Chicas was able to leave and reunite with his family Friday at 2 p.m.