Guatemalan Immigrant Has Been Sheltered in NYC Church for a Year

Amanda Morales, a Guatemalan mother, took shelter in a Washington Heights church a year ago. (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

On Aug. 17, 2017, Amanda Morales, a Guatemalan woman with a deportation order, took refuge in the Holyrood Church in Washington Heights, in order to stay in New York with her U.S.-born children and avoid being deported to Guatemala. She fears that her life would be in danger there due to gang violence, which made her leave her country in 2004, José Martínez writes in El Diario. What follows is an abridged translation of his article.

“She represents the rights of all our sisters and brothers who contribute millions of dollars to this nation’s economy,” said Council member Ydanis Rodríguez, adding that he continues working alongside Rev. Luis Barrios, the reverend at Holyrood, to prevent the separation of Amanda and her children.

“A year later, we continue to support her because it is the people and the cities’ right to be a sanctuary,” said the political leader, who represents the Washington Heights area. “We know that this is a long struggle and that we do not have the support of the federal government or the president.”

Rev. Juan Carlos Ruiz, co-founder of the New Sanctuary Coalition, said that the hardest thing for Amanda and other refugees is the lack of freedom and their children’s.

“This is draining them, the fact that they cannot do the things they normally used to do with their kids: going to the park, taking them to school…” said Ruiz.

In Rev. Ruiz’s opinion, the situation becomes more complicated as months go by. “We see that things are getting harder; that the situation is getting worse.”

Aura Hernández, another Guatemalan immigrant, has been living in the Fourth Universalist Society church in Manhattan for six months with her two children, Daniel, 10, and Camila, 1.

“We are waiting for a miracle, because the truth is we do not know when we will be able to get out of here,” she said.

Morales and Hernández are not the only women who have found shelter in sanctuary churches. The most recent case is that of Deborah Barrios. She has not left the St. Paul and St. Andrew United Methodist Church in three months.

Just like many other refugees, some of whom choose to remain anonymous, these women have become a challenge for the New Sanctuary Coalition’s defense committee.

“Each immigrant has a defense committee with people from different professions and organizations, people who are looking after their cases,” explained Rev. García, who stressed the need to continue working with elected officials so that they can be the ones to effect a change in the deportation system.

“From the beginning, the [Trump administration] refused to reunite these families. But what I am most worried about is that there is a [deportation] infrastructure that works perfectly with a budget of millions of dollars that keeps growing. That is what I am worried about,” he said.

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