Mother in sanctuary fasting weekly to protest deportation order

Cherri Gregg
November 27, 2019 - 2:08 pm
Carmela Hernandez has lived at Germantown Mennonite Church for nearly a year.

Cherri Gregg/KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A Mexican mother of four, who moved into a church to avoid a deportation order, will celebrate her second Thanksgiving Day in sanctuary. She is launching a new form of protest to bring attention to her case.

"It's very difficult ... very difficult," said Carmela Hernandez, through an interpreter.

Hernandez has lived inside Germantown Mennonite Church for nearly a year. Thursday will mark her second year awaiting a decision by ICE on her U visa application. She and her family spent the prior year inside the Church of the Advocate in North Philadelphia.

She says she believes that she and other women across the country who went into sanctuary are being punished by Trump administration for defying ICE and their deportation order. So the women are fighting back.

"Carmela is joining seven other women around the country," said Blanca Pacheko, who works with New Sanctuary Movement. "Some of them are fasting. Some of them are doing a hunger strike. This is a national action."

Hernandez has lived inside Germantown Mennonite Church for nearly a year.
Cherri Gregg/KYW Newsradio

Carmela will fast every Wednesday and hold community prayer vigils to raise awareness about her case as time eeks by.

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"If she would be deported back home, she would likely face violence — and possible death," Pacheko said.

Pastor John Bergen, who hosts Hernandez, says she fled to the United States after two relatives were murdered by drug gangs. They hold fundraisers for the family of five every first Friday and will pray alongside them on Wednesdays during the fast to pressure lawmakers to take action.

"The goal of this is to not have Carmela in sanctuary, but to have Carmela free," Bergen said.

Two years ago, the Trump administration began deporting asylum seekers depite pending U visa applications.