Story by Gregg McQueen
Photos by Cristobal Vivar
She sought sanctuary — and has earned a stay.
A Washington Heights church is providing refuge to a Guatemalan immigrant mother facing deportation — and who’s just been granted a 90-day window while Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials review her case.
Amanda Morales-Guerra and her three young children sought refuge at Holyrood Church on Fort Washington Avenue after fearing she’d be deported back to her native Guatemala, which she fled in 2004.
In 2012, Morales-Guerra, carrying her Guatemalan passport, her only proof of identification, was a passenger in a car accident. Afterwards, she was required to check in with ICE officials regularly, which she did without fail. Moreover, Morales-Guerra has paid her taxes and has no criminal record.
But last month, the 33-year-old said she was told by immigration officials to bring a one-way plane ticket to Guatemala to her next ICE appointment.
Frightened that she’d be deported and separated from her children, Morales-Guerra instead went to Holyrood.
As with schools, churches and houses of worship are designated as “sensitive locations,” and by ICE agents are not allowed to enter without a special designation.
Congressman Adriano Espaillat said he expected ICE to honor the sanctity of the church.
“ICE cannot come in here…and interrogate and arrest her,” said Espaillat. “We will not allow that to happen.”