Oneita and Clive Thompson, for 843 days hid in two Philadelphia churches to prevent the Immigration and Customs Enforcement from deporting them.
They daily life was constrained within the First United Methodist Church of Germantown, after which they proceeded to the Tabernacle United Church downtown church.
They ate, bathed, and slept cloistered inside the churches, bereft of the ability to walk beyond the grounds for fear of deportation.
Although there is no explicit law that prevents the ICE from going into churches and other sensitive locations to deport undocumented individuals, the agency revealed that it generally avoids such taking such actions.
Throughout the 843 days, the ICE repeatedly refused the requests of the couple. Their daughter Angel went on to gain citizenship and got her I-130 form approved, the federal form that’s the first step in having alien relatives establish permanent residency in the United States.
After the family’s repeated attempts to block the deportation order, the federal government dropped the order in mid-December.
An ICE official, during an interview with CNN said:
Upon the BIA’s issuance of a decision, the Thompsons were no longer subject to a final order of removal, thereby removing any imminent concerns of possible removal.
The official also added that the agency carriesout removal decisions made in federal immigration courts, which are administered by the DOJ’s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR).
Although they are now safe from deportation, the Thompsons still have to gain permanent residency. But for now, they are just relieved the ordeal is over.
Oneita recalled the experience, likening it to a caged bird finally let loose
It’s still sinking in, it was liberating. I don’t know how to explain it. You just want to spread your wings and fly away.Oneita