Pastor Jose Chicas left his sanctuary on church grounds after his deportation fears were alleviated.
A crowd surrounding a small ground broke into Amazing Grace on Friday afternoon as Chicas stood outside of his home, ready to face the world.
Since June of 2017, Chicas has been living in a small house on the grounds of St John Missionary Baptist Church in North Carolina. A site called Keep Pastor Chicas Home says he feared leaving the home would mean he would be deported to his native country of El Salvador.
After 1305 days in sanctuary, Pastor Jose Chicas is going home 🎉 catch him at your local Chinese buffet (he’s been deprived for three years) pic.twitter.com/Qp4Js9gFug— Barbara Sostaita (@BarbaraSostaita) January 22, 2021
"Pastor Chicas fled El Salvador during the violent civil war of the 1980s and came to the US seeking asylum. Because of poor legal advice, he skipped his hearing and ended up with a deportation order that has followed him throughout his time in the U.S.," Keep Pastor Chicas Home says on their website.
After being in the United States for 30 years, the pastor was told by ICE that he had "one month to buy a one-way plane ticket to El Salvador and never come back."
The group says before he became a pastor, Chicas struggled with alcoholism and was charged with driving under the influence and domestic abuse. The group says in the '90s he was a changed man after connecting with God. The charges are what influenced ICE, under an order from the previous administration, to call for him to leave the country. His advocacy group says he changed since his charges. He is a family man and strong member of his church community. He and his wife have four children together.
During the isolation, Chicas led online worship from the home. He made money by washing cars in the church's parking lot to support his family.
"Pastor Jose Chicas’ story needs to be heard by those in power, like the stories of all those in sanctuary, so that justice can finally be restored," the group writes.
A change in policy is allowing Chicas to step outside of the place he was confined to for three years.