WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — The undocumented Guatemalan immigrant with three young kids who last week took refuge at a church on West 179th Street to avoid deportation has been granted a temporary reprieve in her quest to remain in the country, officials said.
Amanda Morales-Guerra, 33, who came to the U.S. illegally 13 years ago, sought sanctuary at Holyrood Episcopal Church last week instead of reporting to Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials for deportation.
Now, she has been granted a 90-day stay allowing her legal team the “possibility to reopen her case,” said Russell Murphy, a spokesman for Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, who has taken up her cause.
The stay was granted after Rodriguez, Rep. Adriano Espaillat and Assemblywoman Carmen De La Rosa, along with members of the Sanctuary Coalition of NYC, delivered letters and requests for asylum to ICE's field director in New York City on Monday.
Attorney Geoff Trenchard filed for the stay of removal Monday, asking that she be allowed to remain in the country for at least the next year. ICE will review the request over the next 90 days and come back with a decision, officials said.
“This is a win, however small, that provides more hope than the family had yesterday, but the fight is not over on her behalf,” Murphy said in an email.
Border Patrol officials first encountered Morales-Guerra in Falcon Heights, Texas, in March 2004 but released her before issuing a final order of removal in July of that year, according to ICE. She was picked up again in 2012 and released to allow her to finalize "travel arrangements to return to Guatemala," the agency said. She was supposed to report to ICE on Aug.17, but instead went to the Washington church, making her a "an ICE fugitive," the agency said.
“Amanda is not hiding. Amanda is taking sanctuary and is seeking the justice that has been denied,” Juan Carlos Ruiz, a Lutheran minister and organizer for the Sanctuary Coalition, said Monday. “We appeal to grant Amanda and her family the necessary justice for her and her family to keep united.”
Morales-Guerra has three children, Dulce, 9, Daniela, 7, and 2-year-old son, David, who are all U.S. citizens.
Rev. Luis Barrios, who oversees the Holyrood Episcopal Church, said Monday that “Amanda is doing great.”
“She sends greetings to all of you,” Barrios in Spanish. “She has a lot of faith that there’s going to be a positive result, and she’s going to be able to stay here in the U.S. with her three children.”