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Undocumented activist living in church gets stay of removal

An undocumented woman who lived in a Colorado church for 86 days to take sanctuary from immigration agents left the church Friday after being granted a stay of removal.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) granted the stay Thursday to Jeanette Vizguerra, an immigration activist who was featured in Time’s 100 most influential people list, allowing her to remain in the country until March 15, 2019.

“This is a special day for me, because I will be able to celebrate Mother’s Day with my children and my grandchildren. Even though I’ve been continuing the fight from the inside, I have missed my kids — this fight is for them. And at the same time, it’s for all of the mothers and fathers who are in the struggle,” Vizguerra said at a press conference in Denver.

In March, Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) joined Vizguerra at a press conference outside First Unitarian Church in Denver to criticize local ICE officials. Polis then said a stay of deportation for a mother of three American citizens should be a “routine matter.”


Vizguerra, a Mexico City native, immigrated to Colorado in 1997 after her husband was held at gunpoint. She has four children, one of whom is a recipient of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The three others are U.S. citizens.

She was granted a stay of deportation in 2013, and renewed it five times before ICE denied her sixth renewal in February.

Instead of showing up for deportation, Vizguerra took refuge at First Unitarian Church. 

ICE also granted a stay of deportation Thursday to Arturo Hernandez Garcia, who took refuge at First Unitarian Church for nine months between 2014 and 2015.

Hernandez was detained by immigration agents at his place of work last month.

He was released within a week with support from three Colorado Democrats: Sen. Michael Bennett, Rep. Ed Perlmutter and Polis.

Vizguerra said Friday she would continue her immigration activism, focusing on the case of Ingrid Encalada Latorre, a Peruvian mother of two U.S. citizen children in sanctuary at another local church.

“At the same time I’ve felt happy for myself, I am sad for my friend who is at another church. While I’m celebrating, she also wants to leave from there,” said Vizguerra.

“Even though my struggle has not ended, my energy over the next two years will go towards fighting for her,” she added.

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