A Guatemalan Mum and Son, hidden in a sanctuary church for more than one year
Around the country, President Donald Trump's efforts to crack down on the estimated 11 million immigrants living illegally in the U.S. have spread fear and anxiety and led many people to brace for arrest and to change up their daily routines in hopes of not getting caught.
In Austin, Texas, attention has been focused on an undocumented Guatemalan migrant mother and her son that have been living in a local church for more than a year. Hilda Ramirez says they were fleeing the danger of their country and were caught by immigration authorities as they illegally crossed the border at Texas in 2014. After they were released from a holding facility, the pair took sanctuary in an Austin church eleven months ago, hoping to avoid deportation back into danger at home.
"I just want peace for myself and my son," she said, in an interview with EFE. The 29-year-old Guatemalan explains that she never hid from immigration authorities when she and his son Ivan arrived in the United States in 2014 and asked for asylum. Her petition ended up in detention by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), because agents did not believe her story of violence back home in Guatemala. She was held in a detention center in Karnes County, one of two family immigration centers in Texas. The required deposit to go out was $ 10,000, which Hilda did not have, as reported in EFE.
Thus, after spending eleven months at the detention center in Texas. A local shelter for the homeless was their salvation for the next seven months until their son's request for special juvenile immigrant status (SIJS) in early 2016 was denied.
Frightened by a possible deportation, she contacted Grasroots Leadership, a local organization that advises people of this group, who recommended that she hide with her son in the church of St. Andrews, a "sanctuary" where immigration agents are banned get in.
Thus, since February 9, 2016, this Presbyterian Church is home to the Guatemalan couple, who received good news four months ago: their deportation order had been temporarily blocked.
However, with Donald Trump's unexpected victory, the fear of being returned to Guatemala and to be separated from his child is back. In Texas, Ivan, who never attended school in his native country, now enjoys learning to read, write and understand Spanish and English, as well as taking art and soccer lessons.
The administration has confirmed that any immigrant in the country illegally who is charged with or convicted of any offense, or even suspected of a crime, will now be an enforcement priority. That could include people arrested for shoplifting or other minor offenses, or those who simply crossed the border illegally.
According to GrassRoots Leadership, an organization that runs a deportation hotline in Austin, TX, the organization would normally receive one or two calls every few days. After recent immigration raids, the phone rang off the hook, as reported this week in Time magazine.
"We got over 1,000 phone calls in three days about the raids," said Cristina Parker, immigration programs director for Grassroots Leadership. "And certainly a lot of those were people who wanted information about the raids saying, 'I'm scared, I'm worried, what can I do?'... A lot of them were people who were impacted by the raids who saw a friend or family be taken."