Aura Hernandez, a housekeeper and mom of two young children, has become the second undocumented immigrant in New York City to publicly seek sanctuary in a church. Because Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) policy considers enforcement actions in churches, schools, and hospitals mostly, but not completely, off-limits, more immigrants in the area are thought to be privately in sanctuary. Yes, there’s risk in going public, but past public efforts, like immigrant rights leader Jeanette Vizguerra’s, have succeeded. For immigrants who are able to go public, they’re able to show the nation just how much is at stake—going into sanctuary with Hernandez is her 15-month-old daughter:
With help from other houses of worship and volunteers, this 130-member congregation will feed Ms. Hernandez, do the family’s laundry, and help care for Camila, who is a U.S. citizen and can go outside. They will buy new carpet and paint for her room, and welcome Ms. Hernandez’s 10-year-old son, Daniel, to live there on weekends and when the school year ends. Daniel, also born in the United States, is living in Westchester County with Ms. Hernandez’s husband, who also is undocumented.
It is a difficult situation, but the members of the Fourth Universalist, who met Ms. Hernandez at the March 18 service, said they were excited about being asked for help. Their Unitarian Universalist denomination calls for the use of social action to advance progressive principles, they explained. So for them, this is a unique opportunity.
Hernandez has been living in the U.S. for over a decade, crossing the border with a nephew in 2005. They were picked up by Customs and Border Protection (CBP), with Hernandez alleging that she was sexually abused during the three days she spent in immigration detention. After she was released, she said she was too traumatized to read the paperwork she had been handed. When she was stopped for a traffic violation in 2013, “the police officer, seeing she had no documents, reported her to immigration officials.