A Salvadoran woman who was part of the surge of Central Americans who arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border last year without proper documents is trying to avoid deportation by hiding in a Catholic mission in Atlanta.
Claudia Mariela Jurado decided to elude immigration authorities after a judge denied her request for political asylum last week and ordered that she turn herself in for deportation.
Jurado, who is 27 and says she fled El Salvador after gang members threatened to kill her and her two young children if she didn’t pay them money monthly, cut off an ankle monitoring device immigration agents placed on her when they released her from custody and sought refuge at the Catholic mission.
“If I go back, I fear for my life and my children’s life,” said Jurado, who is pregnant, according to published reports.
Jurado said she plans to remain at the mission until “God decides," the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials say they do not arrest people in churches, generally. They say they gave Jurado due process.
"On Wednesday, ICE requested that Claudia Mariela Jurado report to the Atlanta ICE office July 31 for removal. Ms. Jurado subsequently failed to comply, and actively obstructed the removal process by destroying her GPS monitoring device before absconding," ICE said in a statement.
Immigration Attorney Charles Kuck said her pregnancy could complicate the case.
"Do you deport a woman with a newborn child who is a citizen of the United States," said Kuck to a local CBS affiliate in Atlanta. "The are difficult decisions for ICE to face as well as the general public. Issues that we shouldn't have to face if we had a Congress that actually fixed our broken immigration system."
The CBS report said it is not known how long Jurado and her children will stay in the church.
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