“Let my mom stay please.”
Those were the words written on a sign held up by 9-year-old Hayley, whose mom faces deportation to Guatemala.
Single mother-of-four Nury Chavarria, 43, sought refuge at Iglesia De Dios Pentecostal Church in New Haven, Connecticut Thursday in an attempt to deter federal immigration authorities from forcing her out of a country she has resided in for more than two decades.
“My mom Nury Chavarria is someone I love more than everyone in the world,” Hayley told reporters Thursday. “She is not a criminal. She has a positive attitude about everything. I want her to stay here because I love her so much.”
Chavarria said she originally came to the United States in 1993 to escape violence in her home country. Chavarria, her brother and her father applied for asylum status when they arrived, but the request was denied, the Hartford Courant reported.
Despite two deportation orders in 1998 and 1999, Chavarria said she stayed to give her children a better life.
All four of her children, including her 21-year-old son with cerebral palsy, were born in the United States. She also provided for her family by working as a housekeeper.
She started doing annual check-ins with ICE in 2011, and officials allowed her to stay to take care of her kids each time.
But when Chavarria went in for her yearly appointment this June, she was told to purchase a ticket back to Guatemala. She would have to return to the office in July with proof of purchase, officials said.
Instead of getting on a flight, Chavarria took refuge with her youngest daughter at the church.
“We have opened the doors of our congregation to serve Ms. Chavarria as a sanctuary church," Reverend Hector Otero said through a translator during the Thursday press conference.
New Haven is considered a sanctuary city, and officials there have spoken out against Chavarria's forced removal.
“It just doesn’t make sense,” Governor Daniel P. Mallow said during a visit to the church. "We ask the question [of] whether it makes sense for the American government to separate this primary caregiver for two of four of these children. It doesn’t make sense.”
Two U.S. senators from Connecticut have also written letters to federal agents asking that her case be reviewed.
Volunteers have brought Chavarria and her 9-year-old daughter food, while family members take care of her three other children.
Activists are hoping the longer she stays in the church, the more likely her case will be overturned.