(NORWALK, Conn.) — Nury Chavarria, an undocumented mother of four who has lived in the United States for 24 years, was set to be deported to Guatemala on Thursday night. Instead, Chavarria refused to leave her children, taking sanctuary in a Connecticut church.
Chavarria left Guatemala and came to the United States without legal papers in 1993 when she was 19, ABC affiliate WTNH-TV reported.
She ultimately settled in Norwalk, Connecticut, where she got a job as a housekeeper and raised a family. Chavarria, now 43, has four children who are all U.S. citizens, two of whom are in college. She has no criminal history and has paid taxes since she received a work permit, according to her immigration attorneys.
Chavarria told WTNH-TV that she has been honest about her immigration status for years and regularly and voluntarily checked in with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. But this year, ICE fitted her with a GPS ankle monitor to track her movements ahead of her deportation, she said.
Chavarria was supposed to board the plane that would take her out of the country at 5 p.m. on Thursday. She sought sanctuary in the Iglesia De Dios Pentecostal Church in New Haven, according to Sidd Sinha, one of the lawyers who represented Chavarria in her battle against the deportation order.
“On behalf of Formica Williams, P.C., we have been informed that Nury Chavarria has opted to seek refuge in a local church through sanctuary,” Sinha said in a statement provided to ABC News on Friday.
Sinha said the law firm will continue to represent Chavarria in her petition to stay and for any applications on relief that may become available, but that she is retaining new counsel regarding her decision to enter sanctuary.
An ICE spokesperson told ABC News that Chavarria is “currently an ICE fugitive” because she did not obey orders to leave the country.
“Nury Chavarria was allowed to voluntarily depart by a federal immigration judge in 1998, and failed to comply, rendering her subject to final order of removal in 1999,” the spokesperson said in a statement Friday. “In 2010, the agency deferred her removal for one year on humanitarian grounds. 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.”
“Since she did not depart as instructed, she is currently an ICE fugitive,” the spokesperson added.
ICE agents are asked to avoid conducting enforcement activities at “sensitive locations unless they have prior approval from an appropriate supervisory official or in the event of exigent circumstances,” the spokesperson said. These locations include schools, hospitals and places of worship.
— Governor Dan Malloy (@GovMalloyOffice) July 20, 2017
Gov. Dan Malloy (D-Conn.) said on Twitter that he had met with Chavarria at the church and posted photos of them together Thursday. The governor did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment Friday.
Iglesia De Dios Pentecostal Church also did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment Friday.
Kica Matos, director of immigrant rights and racial justice at the Center for Community Change, headquartered in Washington, D.C., is among the local activists and members of the community working to help protect Chavarria and her family. Matos told ABC News on Friday that Chavarria remains at the church and “has settled in” with the youngest of her four children, Hayley.
The 9-year-old girl spoke to reporters at the church and made a direct plea to President Donald Trump to allow her mother to stay.
“She’s not a criminal. She has a positive attitude about everything. I want her to stay because I love her so much. My message to President Trump is: don’t separate my family,” Hayley Chavarria said, according to WTNH-TV.
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