After 1,000 days, Miriam Vargas still believes that God is watching over her and her two daughters as they hide from deportation inside First English Lutheran Church in Columbus, Ohio. But she is also still afraid.
“I do have that fear always,” she told Christianity Today through a translator, “that somebody is going to come into the church and take me away from my family.”
Vargas is one of about 50 women across the US who sought asylum in churches, as a revived sanctuary movement emerged in response to President Donald Trump’s efforts to increase deportations and get tough on immigration, illegal border crossings, and refugees. Now that Joe Biden is in the White House, proposing a kinder, more generous immigration reform, the latest chapter of the sanctuary movement may be drawing to a close.
Vargas spent 31 months worrying that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) could still detain her; separate her from her two American-citizen daughters, ages 7 and 11; and send her back to Honduras, currently one of the most dangerous places in the world. In March, she had been granted an “order of supervision” from ICE, saying she won’t be deported. But she, and others like her, are not ready to breathe just yet.
Vargas doesn’t love living inside a church. “It’s being in four walls 24-7,” she said. But she will wait a little longer.
Peter Pedemonti, co-director of the New Sanctuary Movement in Philadelphia, said that legal challenges to the deportation freeze and political opposition to Biden’s day-one immigration bill have reminded immigrants that while change may be coming, it’s not here yet. They have reasons to stay worried even as they find new ...1
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