Pastor Jose Chicas leaves sanctuary at Durham church for first time in 1,300 days

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Friday, January 22, 2021
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"3 years and 7 months. It's easy to say but not easy to believe," his wife said. "God is Good."

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- After more than 1,300 days, a Triangle pastor is leaving a Durham church and will be able to go home to his family.

Jose Chicas is an undocumented immigrant.

Since mid-July 2017 Chicas has not left Saint Johns Missionary Baptist Church in Durham. He has been living there in sanctuary, afraid to leave and be deported.

However, President Joe Biden has now put a moratorium on deportations. For the next 100 days, nobody will be deported--meaning Chicas can go home to his family.

"I was scared a little bit because I don't want to go to my country because my wife and family are here," Chicas said on Friday.

"I say to everybody, thank you very much and if you have a problem, God will help you. Pray for all of the Spanish people in this country, pray for this president."

"3 years and 7 months. It's easy to say but not easy to believe," his wife said. "God is Good."

Chicas fled war in El Salvador during the 1980s, and was detained in Texas in 1985 after crossing the Mexican border. He was released on bail, but never appeared before his judge, citing faulty legal advice.

In the 1990s, Chicas pled guilty to DUI and domestic abuse, when he was struggling with alcoholism.

Supporters say he has since turned his life around, finding religion, leading a Raleigh congregation, and working at a local church prior to moving into sanctuary.

In 2008, at the advice of his previous attorney, Chicas skipped an immigration court date where he was issued a final order of removal. That year, his application for asylum was denied.