ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – An Albuquerque church is not shying away from the debate over illegal immigrants. The church is offering a Honduran woman sanctuary from the federal government.
Sanctuary had a different meaning at Tuesday’s gathering of faith leaders — not referring to a place of worship, but a place of protection.
“My name is Emma and I am here from Honduras, I have lived in the United States for 25 years, almost half of my life,” said Emma, through a translator.
Emma said she was forced to make a difficult choice last week when she had an appointment with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. She said she was afraid of being deported if she went to the ICE office. Emma also said she was arrested once before, about six years ago.
“There is fear and a feeling of helplessness,” said Emma. “I found out about the deportation order when immigration officers came to my house and they arrested me when I was coming back from a cancer treatment.”
So this time, she began searching for another option. That’s when she found refuge in a Quaker church in Downtown Albuquerque.
“We are honored to stand with the many churches and people of faith who have offered sanctuary to individuals in desperate need of protection,” said Rachel Brackbill, Albuquerque Friends Meeting.
The group, Albuquerque Friends Meeting, has a history of providing sanctuary, and Tuesday they declared their commitment to continuing this tradition.
“In 1984, the Albuquerque Quaker Meeting united to offer sanctuary to refugees fleeing violence in Central America,” said Brackbill.
“We have gotten so much support from other churches in Albuquerque,” said Sara Keeney, Albuquerque Friends Meeting.
Emma’s husband, a U.S. citizen, said he hopes their story helps others, “from being torn apart from their loved ones and families too.”
Emma’s lawyer said she did apply for a work permit and political asylum decades ago, but claims she got lost in the system.
More than a dozen churches have recently offered sanctuary to immigrants around the country. However, according to legal experts, federal agents can still arrest undocumented immigrants in churches, and the church officials who harbor them.