An undocumented Connecticut mother of four has sought sanctuary inside a New Haven, CT, church to avoid being deported to Guatemala. Nury Chavarria has lived in the United States for 24 years and has checked in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement yearly, but this year she was instructed to return.
Chavarria entered the U.S. without the proper documentation when she was 19, according to WTNH News 8. Until this year Chavarria was allowed to remain in the country since she has never been arrested and pays taxes. At her last ICE meeting, Chavarria was ordered to buy a ticket back to Guatemala. ICE agents also fastened a GPS monitor on her ankle.
She was scheduled to fly back to Guatemala on Thursday, but instead of going to the airport she went to the Iglesia de dios Pentecostal Church. Chavarria’s lawyer, Sidd Sinha, confirmed her client’s decision to defy ICE orders.
In a statement to ABC News, an ICE spokesperson described Chavarria as an “ICE fugitive” after she “did not depart as instructed.”
“In 2010, the agency deferred her removal for one year on humanitarian grounds,” the statement read. “As a current exercise of discretion and after an exhaustive review of her case, the agency had allowed her to remain free from custody while finalizing her timely departure plans.”
Chavarria’s family held a press conference outside the church on Thursday. Her 9-year-old daughter, Haley, implored authorities to let her mother remain in the country. “She’s not a criminal. She has a positive attitude about everything. I want her to stay because I love her so much,” Haley said. “My message to President Trump is don’t separate my family.”
Democratic Governor Dan Malloy met with Chaverria on Thursday as well; he posted a photo of their meeting on Twitter without commenting specifically on her situation.
ICE agents are legally allowed to raid churches, however doing so would likely spark uproar. Department policy advises against raiding “sensitive locations” without prior approval from “the appropriate supervisory official.”
WTNH News 8 was able to interview Chaverria inside the church on Friday with her daughter Haley. Chaverria said she did not know how long she would stay at the church, but that she was relieved to be with her family for the time being.
“I am happy to be here with my daughter. I can see her and later my kids come to visit me,” Chaverria told WTNH News 8. “That’s a good thing for me, that’s the only way to keep my family together.”