Mother who took sanctuary in church granted deportation stay

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HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A housekeeper and mother of four who received sanctuary in a Connecticut church has been granted an emergency stay of a deportation order that would have sent her back to her native Guatemala.

Nury Chavarria, who entered the U.S. 24 years ago without legal status, was ordered in June to leave the country by July 20. The 43-year-old Norwalk resident instead took refuge inside the Iglesia de Dios Pentecostal church in New Haven.

"I'm here to raise my voice to tell we are not criminals," she told The Associated Press during an interview inside the church on Monday. "We are people, hardworking, who came to this country to get a better life."

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agreed on Wednesday to take another look at Chavarria's case, and a federal judge issued the order protecting her from deportation, Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's office said.

"There was never a rational justification for Nury Chavarria to have been threatened with deportation and separated from her children, and I applaud this decision by ICE and the court to allow her to continue living and working in the United States with her family," Malloy said.

Chavarria said she needed to stay in the U.S. to be with her children, who are U.S. citizens and range in age from 9 to 21. Her oldest child has cerebral palsy.

Chavarria had been denied asylum but had been granted yearly stays and work permits since 2009. She said that changed in June when she was fitted with an ankle bracelet and was told to buy a one-way ticket to Guatemala.

She had been living inside the church since last Thursday, with her 9-year-old daughter, Hayley.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who had asked ICE to reconsider its deportation decision, said justice and reason prevailed.

"Nury will be allowed to temporarily return to her home in Norwalk as we continue to fight for long-term relief," he said. "The facts in this case are clear and compelling, and I am hopeful that once granted her day in court Nury will be awarded the legal status she deserves."

An ICE spokesman said this week the agency considered Chavarria a fugitive but has a policy to avoid conducting enforcement activities inside sensitive locations, such as churches.

President Donald Trump has taken a tough stance against illegal immigration, saying he needs to keep the country safe.

Chavarria said she would tell the Republican president she's not a criminal.

"I want to tell him (to have) compassion for us," she said.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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