Facing Deportation, Undocumented Immigrant Takes Sanctuary in Philly Church

With major announcements on immigration expected to take place soon, a Honduran-born woman facing deportation is taking sanctuary with her family at a church in Philadelphia.

Angela Navarro, 28, publicly entered West Kensington Ministry, a church at Norris Square, Tuesday. Navarro, who moved in with her husband and two children, ages 8 and 11, said she would not leave the church until Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) cancels her deportation order, which has been in effect for a decade.

Navarro told the Philadelphia Inquirer she was 16-years-old and pregnant when she and the father of her children crossed illegally into Texas from Honduras in 2003. She was then arrested and sent to live with her parents in Philadelphia.

Navarro said her parents had permission to live in the United States under Temporary Protected Status (TPS) after a hurricane devastated Honduras in 1998. TPS allows immigrants who are unable to safely return to their home country due to armed conflict, environmental disaster and other issues to stay in America temporarily.

Navarro told the Inquirer she initially agreed to take voluntary departure which allowed her to leave on her own. When she didn’t leave after the 120-day timeframe however, she was formally deported.

Navarro continued living in the United States and even worked as a cook. She was never able to legalize her status due to the final deportation order however. Both of her children and her husband, whom she married last week, are US citizens.

Navarro is currently living with her family at West Kensington Ministry. Volunteers at the church as well as members of New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia, an interfaith, multicultural immigrant rights organization,helped them with the move.

Navarro said she is willing to stay at the church as long as she needs to, despite the fact that there are no laws preventing ICE officials from entering the church.

“Immigration Customs Enforcement can come into the building if they so wish to,” said West Kensington Ministry Reverend Adam Mairena. “Its common knowledge, it’s tradition that a church is a place of sanctuary, a place of refuge, where they normally would not enter, and they have not yet. However, they have a right to do so. What we’re doing here is, this is a statement.”

Navarro is the ninth immigrant in the US with a final order of deportation to enter into sanctuary and the first on the east coast.

President Barack Obama recently announced he would unveil a series of executive actions on immigration that could possibly shield immigrants living in the country illegally from deportation. Those actions could go into effect as early as this week. Navarro is unsure if the possible immigration changes will impact her however.

“I am a mother of two U.S. citizens, the wife of a U.S. citizen, a leader in my church, and a worker,” Navarro said in her native language. “I’m tired of living in constant fear that I will be deported at any moment. I’m fighting to end my deportation and for President Obama to fulfill his promise and end all deportations."

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