The impromptu home where a Honduran woman and her family will now live is in the corner of a Kensington church.
“It’s small, but we have everything that we need,” said Angela Navarro, 28, who is facing a final deportation order.
Hastily constructed walls separate the parents’ and children’s bedrooms, and they have access to the church kitchen.
“The most important thing is that I’m here with my husband and children,” Navarro said.
Navarro moved into West Kensington Ministry off Norris Square on Tuesday.
She had quit her job as a cook to take sanctuary full-time, along with her husband and two children, ages 8 and 11, who are all legal U.S. citizens.
They can come and go, but Navarro must stay in the church at all times to avoid the risk of deportation.
“It hurts to know that your daughter at any moment could be deported,” said Navarro’s father, Rene. “But it’s important – because we’re showing that we also have value, the same as anyone in this country.”
Navarro is the ninth immigrant nationwide and the first on the east coast to take sanctuary in a place of worship to avoid deportation, according to New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia, a group that supports undocumented immigrants.
Just days ago, the New York Times reported that President Barack Obama would sign an executive order this week granting amnesty to up to five million of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.
But that does not comfort Navarro.
“He has spoken. He has said a lot of words. But he hasn’t done anything yet,” she said of Obama. “We are hopeful that he will act to stop deportations.”
Additionally, amnesty might not even affect Navarro’s deportation order status.
“The devil is in the details,” said Rev. Adán A. Mairena, pastor of West Kensington Ministry. “Their plan is talking about amnesty for three to five million people. If it’s very selective as to who’s in, who’s out, that’s not enough.”
“Talk is cheap. Sign the line that says President of the United States, and that is when it’s real.”
For now, Navarro said she will use her time at the church to pray and engage in hobbies like playing guitar and drawing.
“I have faith that God is with me. I know that we are going to struggle until we win,” she said.
Navarro plans to take sanctuary until the deportation order against her is lifted. She hopes to ultimately become a U.S. citizen one day.
It is the policy of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to not undertake “enforcement actions” at “sensitive locations” such as churches, unless “exigent circumstances exist” or other law enforcement actions lead the officers there, an official confirmed.
A deportation order was first issued against Navarro 10 years ago by immigration authorities who apprehended her at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Rene, her father, said that Angela going into sanctuary won’t be more challenging than the experience of living in fear for a decade.
“Since 10 years ago, we’ve been in this same struggle,” he said. “We’ve done many sacrifices, and we’ll keep making them up until it’s over.”
Below, watch Navarro explain why she is taking sanctuary in a video.