(CNN)An undocumented immigrant in Colorado says he's taken shelter in a church because the government shutdown leaves him with no other choice.
He says the shutdown forced him to seek sanctuary
Miguel Ramirez Valiente is facing a deportation order -- but his lawyer says right now he has no way to fight it.
Most immigration courts are shuttered because of the shutdown. Judges are only hearing the cases of detained immigrants, while other cases are being postponed. But Immigration and Customs Enforcement's fugitive operations and removal divisions are still operating.
So Ramirez Valiente stood at the pulpit at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on Wednesday and told reporters he was seeking sanctuary to fight for the chance to remain with his wife and three children.
Attorney Lisa Guerra said that Ramirez didn't realize until recently that officials had reopened the immigration case against him last year. Ramirez, she says, missed a court date in October because notice never reached him. He learned in December that he'd been ordered removed, she says.
Guerra said she's filed a motion to reopen the case in the Denver Immigration Court, which is closed. And now her hands are tied.
"With the government shutdown, mail basically goes into a box," she told reporters. "There are no judges to decide that motion to reopen. There is no office of chief council to speak with about the case. ... We are basically in a legal limbo, waiting for the government to reopen."
In an automated email reply to CNN's request for comment on the case, ICE said its media personnel can't respond to queries due to the shutdown.
Notifications are sent to someone's last known address, an ICE official told CNN. The official said they could not comment on Ramirez's case, but said that in general, not receiving notice is not a legal defense.
ICE fugitive operations and removals are continuing during the shutdown, the official said, but some removals are delayed because immigration courts aren't hearing cases for immigrants that aren't detained. And some attorneys for the agency are furloughed.
Ramirez, a stonemason, said gang violence forced him to flee El Salvador 14 years ago. He's been fighting his immigration case since 2011, after a traffic stop by a local sheriff landed him in ICE custody.