Adilene Marquina stood in front of the cameras crying, holding her belly and begging federal immigration officials not to deport her. She has a high-risk pregnancy but has decided to seek sanctuary inside a church on Chicago’s Southwest Side.
“I don’t want to be separated from my children,” she said Tuesday at the Faith, Life and Hope Mission where she has taken refuge with her family. “I don’t want anything to happen to my baby girl on my way back.”
Marquina crossed the border asking for political asylum in 2015. She said she couldn’t afford to keep paying extortion payments to a drug cartel in Mexico in order to keep her family business open. When the cartel cut off her ex-partner’s finger, she fled to Chicago.
She said she waited four years for an immigration judge to decide if she could stay. Her claim was denied. She has until Thursday to leave the country.
But she has a high-risk pregnancy and is afraid to travel back to Mexico.
“They don’t care about my daughter’s life,” she said while sobbing. “They couldn’t even bother to look at the documents I provided that say I can’t travel.”
Marquina, 34, and her family will be staying at the church. She has a 16-year-old American son, a 14-year-old son who is also seeking asylum and a 3-year-old son who was born in Chicago.
Rev. Jose Landaverde says Marquina has a legitimate political asylum claim and will continue fighting her case. Over the years, Landaverde has offered his church to immigrants looking for sanctuary. The church has moved from Little Village to West Chicago to its current location at 2940 W. 63th Street in the Chicago Lawn community area.
“As we give sanctuary to Adilene and welcome following the Gospel, we have stopped like three deportations with sanctuary. We welcome Adilene to our sanctuary,” Landaverde said.
According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement policy, the agency doesn’t make arrests in places of worship, such as churches, synagogues, mosques and temples.
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.
In 2017, CNN reported that a growing number of churches in the country are willing to offer sanctuary.
María Ines Zamudio is a reporter for WBEZ’s Race, Class and Communities desk. Follow her @mizamudio.