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A man who criticized President Donald Trump’s immigration policies in the name of progressive Christianity was killed last week by an undocumented immigrant who avoided deportation by hiding in a local “sanctuary church.”
Sean Buchanan, a father of five from Colorado Springs, was driving his motorcycle on Highway 83 when Miguel Ramirez Valiente swerved into his lane and killed him. The immigrant was charged with reckless driving with a revoked license.
Ramirez Valiente received national media coverage in January when he sought sanctuary in All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church in Buchanan’s hometown. Speaking from the pulpit, he told assembled reporters that he had fled gang violence in El Salvador in 2005. He said he wanted to stay in the United States to care for his wife and three children even though his asylum application was denied.
In a sympathetic report at the time, CNN said Ramirez Valiente was one of about 50 immigrants who had tried to avoid U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in a church.
However, when he killed Buchanan, Ramirez Valiente was driving with a suspended license thanks to a 2018 DUI. He was also arrested for reckless endangerment in 2011 and domestic violence in 2016. A district attorney dismissed both charges.
After the crash, a close female acquaintance anonymously told ABC 7 Denver that Ramirez Valiente is “an alcoholic and an abuser.”
In the years leading up to his death, Buchanan publicly advocated on behalf of asylum seekers like Ramirez Valiente. On Facebook and Twitter, he shared political commentary rooted in a liberal vision of Christianity in between marketing and business tips.
Buchanan ― who formerly worked for Christian app company aware3 ― often retweeted posts by the late progressive evangelical writer Rachel Evan Held. In one tweet from 2016, Buchanan declared that “radical inclusivity” is “the most Christian phrase.”
Last April, Buchanan posted a New York Times column to Facebook expressing longing for a Church committed to “feminism” and “social justice” ― as opposed to the real-life “old boys’ club” that is “obsessed with dogma and rules.”
At the same time, Buchanan ― who raised two adopted black sons along with his three daughters ― was harshly critical of the president for his views on gender, race and immigration.
In 2016, he recommended an article to his Twitter followers comparing Trump to Adolf Hitler. Days later, he tweeted that the president’s hardline approach to immigration evinced “racism and ignorance.”
In February, he retweeted a post calling Trump a “racist.”
Buchanan also used his Twitter account to condemn proposed restrictions on refugees and to highlight advocacy for more generous asylum policies.
Trump has sought to crackdown on undocumented immigrants like Ramirez Valiente, who ignore their deportation orders. Last month, the president made such immigrants the focus of his national immigration raids, which were widely criticized by liberals.
According to ABC 7, Buchanan had recently landed a new job in Denver and was moving his family to nearby Castle Rock when the fatal collision occurred.
His wife, Kathy Buchanan, told the station that her husband was a devoted family man. She set up a GoFundMe account to help pay for funeral expenses while she tries to figure out how to move forward.
“It’s hugging my kids tight, it’s relying on friends,” she said. “It’s trying to figure out what a new normal looks like when the old normal was so good.”