A week ago, Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Nury Chavarria had to board a flight to her native Guatemala. The mother of 4 U.S.-born children sought sanctuary at a New Haven church instead. Now Chavarria can leave the church basement and return home to her kids, while federal immigration court considers reopening her case.
Hundreds of supporters gathered outside of Iglesia De Dios Pentecostal Church, prepared to march against Chavarria’s deportation on Wednesday evening. But they got news from her legal team that the march would be a celebration.
Merisol Orihuela, who works with Yale’s Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic, told the crowd that they filed two motions with federal immigration court in Hartford. She broke the news that they got an emergency stay on Chavarria’s deportation within the hour.
“We are so thankful that the court acted quickly. That it saw the value in her story and how righteous her case is. We are thankful that ICE today agreed that she does not need to be taken into custody. That she can be with her family while the court considers her case to reopen.”
Orihuela says Chavarria’s application for asylum had been denied in the 1990s, but she has new evidence to present. The court could need weeks to decide whether to take up her case, but she can wait at her home in Norwalk. Chavarria gave thanks through an interpreter.
“God has been my attorney. Thank God and thank attorney Formica and the rest of the attorneys and the legal team that helped me.”
Connecticut residents supported Chavarria after ICE strapped her with an ankle monitor and ordered her to leave the country during her regular check-in this summer.
Members of Connecticut’s congressional delegation tried to appeal to ICE, but got no response. Senator Chris Murphy said after meeting with Chavarria last week that he sympathized with her case.
“I’m a senator and I don’t encourage people to break the laws, but I’m a dad and a husband and a human being.”
Murphy says he can’t see the logic in ICE’s deportation. Immigration officials had allowed Chavarria to stay on humanitarian grounds for years, because she had no criminal record and she was raising four U.S.-born children.
When their decision suddenly changed, Chavarria went to a secure place that ICE agents, as a matter of policy, do not enter. Chavarria remembered how she felt when she first arrived at the church a week ago.
“Now I can cry but not as I did on the 20th when I was shedding tears because I had to leave. These are tears of joy.”
Her immigration lawyer, Glenn Formica, remembers sitting in the church basement with her that evening. He says he wondered how he could write up a motion to reopen her case, while dealing with the press and trying to comfort his client. Then he called in the Yale team.
“They worked like a Silicon Valley startup. They didn’t go to bed for like five days and worked on that particular aspect of the motion which ultimately is the lynchpin to getting Nury out of the basement, basically.”
Formica was shocked to hear that Hartford Immigration Court granted Chavarria’s emergency deportation stay on Wednesday afternoon. He had to call back to confirm the news. Formica says it is a first step in a long process, but hundreds came together to make Chavarria feel safe.
“You know, not to be corny, but sanctuary isn’t about a church, sanctuary is about a community.”
More than 300 people celebrated the progress with a march organized by interfaith sanctuary congregations and local immigrant rights groups.
In the meantime, sanctuary congregations are prepared for another case like Chavarria’s. Senator Richard Blumenthal’s office says a law abiding father in New Fairfield has also received a deportation order.