This immigrant mom has found refuge from US authorities in a Philadelphia church

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Marco Werman: I’m Marco Werman and you’re listening to The World. Many people are heading to holiday services for Christmas, but for some a church provides more than a place to reflect. It offers protection. That’s true for some undocumented immigrants facing an uncertain future here. A handful of them across the US have found sanctuary at churches. The World’s Matthew Bell talked to one undocumented woman in fear of deportation.

 

Matthew Bell: Just before President Barack Obama issued his new immigration plan, Angela Navarro made a big move: she and her husband and their two young kids left their house in Philadelphia, they put a lot of their stuff in storage, and they moved into the West Kensington Ministry Church on the north side of the city. Navarro tells me she had been living with a deportation order hanging over her head for ten years. Immigration authorities had sent letters to her mother’s house, telling Angela to turn herself in. The President’s executive action might protect her from deportation, but she’s still not sure and she’s still afraid of being kicked out of the country. “I feel much better now,” she says. “No longer afraid.” Navarro is 28, she was born in Honduras and entered the US illegally as a teenager. Her parents live in the US and they have legal status. Her husband and her two children are all US citizens. But Navarro is fighting her deportation in court and she’s one of a handful of immigrants being given sanctuary by a coalition of religious organizations nationwide.

 

Nicole Kligerman: As people of faith, when we see an unjust law, we have to break it.

 

Bell: Nicole Kligerman is with the New Sanctuary Movement in Philadelphia. It’s been helping Angela Navarro and her family.

 

Kligerman: As Obama has deported so many people, that might be the law but it is in no way respecting the basic dignity that God has given to everybody. Places of faith--churches, synagogues, mosques, have always served as a place of sanctuary to help keep families together and to stand on the side of justice.

 

Bell: Kligerman gives her own family story as an example. Her Jewish ancestors fled Ukraine before the Holocaust and they moved to the same north Philadelphia neighborhood where the Navarros now live.

 

Kligerman: If the US had the same policies towards immigrants that it does now when my great, great grandparents tried to come to the United States, they wouldn’t have been let in and they most certainly would have been killed.

 

Bell: Back at the church, Angela Navarro says Christmas won’t be so different this year. She’s making turkey and Honduran-style tamales for the big holiday meal tonight. But because she won’t leave the church to go outside, she says she’s making her husband and father do all the shopping. For The World, I’m Matthew Bell.