An undocumented woman in Philadelphia left a church sanctuary after 10 months on Wednesday to plead with Democratic Sen. Bob Casey to help her and her children stay in the country.
The woman, Carmela Apolonio Hernandez, 37, fled Mexico in 2015 with her four children after her brother and two nephews were gunned down by gang members. She said she and her family were threatened by the same group of criminals, Philly.com reported.
Hernandez’s petition for asylum was denied, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials attempted to deport her and her family in December. But guidelines for the agency discourage agents from taking immigrants from places such as churches, schools and hospitals. So she went to the Church of the Advocate to seek safety. She left that safety Wednesday and went to Casey’s office to plead that she and her children not be deported.
“I need to see him in person, and I need him to talk to me,” she told Philly.com. “I understand there is risk involved. But my family needs this right now. If I don’t risk more, we’re not going to win anything more.”
Her 14-year-old daughter went with Hernandez to Casey’s office. Her other children — ages 9, 12 and 16 — were at school. The children spent six weeks in the relative safety of the church with her before returning to school in January.
Philadelphia School District Superintendent William Hite told NBC10 at the time that “every child has the right to access a free and public education that develops their fullest potential.”
“Our schools are safe places to learn, and we welcome every child and family with open arms regardless of background,” he said.
At Casey’s office, Hernandez spoke to him on the phone but was told there was nothing he could do to meaningfully push back against President Donald Trump’s policies on unauthorized immigration, reporter Joshua Albert said on Twitter.
Fearing that she would be detained for deportation when she leaves the building, Hernandez told reporters Wednesday afternoon that she would not leave Casey’s office until her demands were met. But after spending most of the day at the senator’s office, Hernandez said she was returning to the church later that night.