Adilene Marquina had been living in sanctuary inside a Chicago Lawn church for two days when an immigration official called her to tell her she would be allowed to stay in the country until after the birth of her baby.
She just had to report to the federal enforcement office building in Chicago to get her ankle monitor removed.
“I didn’t want to go. I was really afraid. I thought they were trying to trick me,” Marquina said in Spanish. “What if I go, and they deport me?”
Marquina and her 14-year-old son received a removal order after an immigration judge denied their political asylum claim. They were supposed to leave the country by Thursday. But instead Marquina, who has a high-risk pregnancy, took refuge inside the Faith, Life and Hope Mission church to avoid deportation. She made her case public and later received national media attention.
Marquina said Rev. Jose Landaverde and other church members accompanied her to the meeting. She was allowed to stay in the country until Oct. 23, 2019, and the ankle monitor was removed.
Her attorney Juan Soliz said he was surprised by the decision.
“There was a lot of public outcry, but again, there’s also the situation of liability. Deporting a pregnant woman could present some liability issues,” Soliz said.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement declined to comment for this story.
According to the agency’s policy, agents don’t arrest immigrants in places of worship, such as churches, synagogues, mosques and temples.
Marquia plans to stay in the church until Sunday — just to be safe, she says.
Marquina says she feels relieved. She’ll be able to visit her doctor without fear of being deported. She’s also excited her 14-year-old son, Johan, will be able to finish the semester at his school.
The sanctuary movement started in Chicago with Elvira Arellano in 2006. Arellano was caught in an immigration sweep at O’Hare Airport in 2002. She sought refuge inside a Humboldt Park church in 2006, with her son Saul. This action sparked a nationwide sanctuary movement. She was named Time magazine’s Person of the Year in 2006.
Since then dozens of undocumented immigrants have sought sanctuary inside churches.
María Ines Zamudio is a reporter for WBEZ’s Race, Class and Communities desk. Follow her @mizamudio.