Mother facing threat of deportation to Guatemala takes sanctuary in Manhattan church

UPPER WEST SIDE, Manattan (WABC) -- A mother of two, facing possible deportation to Guatemala, is taking sanctuary at a church in Manhattan.

Aura Hernandez is getting an outpouring of support from New Yorkers.

It is not a big, well-known church in New York, but the Fourth Universalist Society on Central Park West is now at the heart of a bitter battle over immigration, and who should be deported.

Aura Hernandez has moved in. She and her 15-month-old daughter have taken sanctuary there because ICE wants to deport her to Guatemala.

It all stems from an old traffic violation and a missed court date.

"Please don't hate us," she said through an interpreter.

Aura came to this country in 2005 and never thought it would come to this.

"She said the United States took her in when she most needed it and she loves this country," the interpreter said.

The church was approached shortly after Donald Trump was elected. Would it offer sanctuary, knowing the nation's immigration policy would soon take a hard, tough turn?

"We really believe first and foremost that every human being in the world should be given a chance to be safe, to be with their families and to not worry about going to a place and a country where they could be killed," said Rev. Schuyler Vogel, senior minister of the Fourth Universalist Society.

Thursday supporters of Hernandez marched to the Trump International Hotel, a protest of support for her, and against President Trump.

"We are here to join with Aura and her family and many other families who feel terrorized by this Administration, by Homeland Security," said Rev. Juan Carlos Ruiz of the New Sanctuary Coalition.

At the end of the day's church service, with it being Holy Thursday, religious leaders did what Christ did in washing his disciples' feet: they washed Aura's.

But her plight also has resonance with other faiths, especially at Passover.

"Well for Jews it certainly does because it's the essential holiday of freedom, going out from slavery in Egypt," said Rabbi Michael Feinberg of the New York Labor Religion Coalition. "Our liberation is tied up with the liberation of all peoples and Passover is a really powerful reminder of that."

Aura Hernandez is the second known person to seek sanctuary in a church in New York City. Amanda Morales, also from Guatemala, and her three children have been living in a Washington Heights church since August.

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