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Immigration Activist Takes Refuge in Colorado Church To Avoid Deportation

GT Bustamante

An immigrants rights activist, who has lived in the US for two decades, has taken refuge in a Denver church to avoid deportation. 

According to ABC News, Jeanette Vizguerra, 45, has four children. Three of them are US citizens and under the age of 12. She will live in the basement bedroom of the church, described by CBS4 as like a “prison cell.”

Vizguerra, a Colorado resident for 20 years, had her request to remain in the US rejected by immigration officials. She has reportedly been granted six stays of removal, delaying deportation since 2011.

“This is not just an attack on me, it’s an attack on the entire immigrant community,” Vizguerra said, addressing the media with a translator.

Read More: US Gets Ready for 'Day Without Immigrants' Rallies and Strikes

For Vizguerra, the church is a welcome sanctuary. American immigration policy advises officials to avoid “sensitive locations,” which includes places of worship, schools, and public demonstrations. Without exceptional circumstances, like the threat of terrorism, the rule protects people like Vizguerra from arrest at the church without prior approval from a supervisor. 

A spokesperson for Immigration and Customs Enforcement described Vizguerra’s case as an “enforcement priority,” since she has two misdemeanor convictions. This is despite her pending approval for a U-Visa, an application usually reserved for those who are “helpful to law enforcement.”

Read More: Trump Signs Order for Border Wall Funding, Immigration Crackdown

Her life will remain in limbo until the government no longer lists her as a priority target.

Vizguerra’s lawyer, Hans Meyer, suggested in an interview with ABC that recent executive orders signed by Donald Trump may be responsible for the crackdown. “She’s not a danger to the United States,” he said. “She’s a mom. We need to protect the community from Trump’s deportation machinery.”

“He’s not thinking right now about how my children feel, wondering how long I’ll have to live in this church,” Vizguerra added, in another defiant reference to Trump. “If the system thinks it can break me, that it can make me kneel, the system is wrong.”

If Vizguerra is deported, she will be torn away from her four children to start a new life in a country unfamiliar to her. Colorado is her home, but, for the forseeable future, she will remain in the basement of the church to stay safe.