PHILADELPHIA, Pa. (WTXF) - A local family say they faced violence and persecution in Mexico. They headed north looking for safety. Now the government says they’ve got to go back. But, a Philadelphia church is offering them sanctuary.
Carmela Hernandez didn’t plan to come to the United States, but at some point her life in drug cartel controlled areas of Mexico became too much, so she and her children came to the San Diego port hoping for asylum.
“Before I came to this country I lost three family members, two of them were my nephews, and one of them was my brother. One of my nephews was decapitated,” said Hernandez.
The argument over immigration policy often comes down to doing what one side thinks is right versus doing what the government says is legal. Today in north Philly a family faced that conflict.
Carmela has been in the Delaware Valley for 2 years while her case was considered, but when she received notice that her asylum was denied and she would be deported, a local church couldn’t let that happen.
Reverend Renee McKenzie of the Church of the Advocate said that Carmela’s story touched everyone.
“She’s a warm compassionate woman. She loves her children fiercely and I can only imagine if I was in the same situation I would want someone to work with me and help me,” said Reverend McKenzie.
The help given was to publicly offer sanctuary to Carmela and her kids. They will live in an apartment in the church with the support of the congregation who knows that they’ve welcomed in someone facing deportation, but also someone who Rev. Renee knows their life is likely in danger if she returns home.
“How immediate the threat of violence was if she returned to Mexico. Frankly I didn’t see any other options but to open the door to receive her and her family,” said Reverend McKenzie.
Carmela wears an ankle monitor so immigration knows where she is at all times. This is a public statement that Carmela and the Congregation are opposing immigration policy because it’s risking lives of people who tried to follow the rules.
“I’m resolved to be in sanctuary. ICE knows exactly where I am and if they come and take me from here it’s up to them,” said Carmela.
If following the law means possibly putting someone’s family at risk what should we do?
The Church of the Advocate believes they made the only decision they could make for Goodness Sake.