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Man Using Center City Church As Immigration Sanctuary

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Immigration activists rallied around an undocumented father who is slated to be deported.

The man is defying immigration authorities by taking sanctuary from ICE agents at a Center City church.

Two dozen protesters rallied around Javier Flores as he walked into the Arch Street United Methodist Church Sunday morning. Born in Mexico, Flores has three U.S.-born children.

He spent 16 months in a detention. His 90-day probation ends Monday, and he is slated for deportation.

Javier Flores, his son, partner and two of the other children (credit: Cherri Gregg)

"He and his family have made the difficult decision and he will be going into sanctuary," said Miguel Andrande of Juntos.

He and other activists helped Flores, who does not speak English, move into the church. He'll live there until his pending U-visa application is granted.

"They're not running and they're not hiding, so if immigration wants him they are going to have to come into the church and take him personally," Andrande said.

(credit: Cherri Gregg)

The church has a history of harboring immigrants. In 2014, a Honduran mother holed up in a West Kensington church until her reprieve was granted.

U.S Immigration Customs and Enforcement issued the following statement on the situation:

"ICE intends to adhere to existing guidance to avoid the apprehension of individuals at sensitive locations such as schools, hospitals and places of worship, except in emergency circumstances."

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