A Honduran migrant who avoided deportation by taking sanctuary with her four children in a Philadelphia church for 554 days will be able to leave and live legally in the United States, supporters said Tuesday night.
“I feel like a bird in the sky with my wings spread,” Suyapa Reyes said in a statement provided by the New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia, which confirmed her pending departure from First United Methodist Church of Germantown. “I am so happy that I won my freedom.”
A New Sanctuary Movement spokesperson said Reyes has received a grant of deferred action from federal immigration authorities. Those approvals typically allow undocumented families to live and work in the country without fear of deportation, usually for one or two years to start.
Philadelphia has been a hub and focus of the sanctuary movement, with three immigrant families — soon to be two — living in churches to avoid removal from the United States.
The Reyes family is planning a formal “Walk to Freedom,” accompanied by friends and supporters at 5 p.m. on March 12. The family will walk from First United Methodist Church of Germantown, 6001 Germantown Ave., to meet with Carmela Hernandez and her children, who in November marked two years in sanctuary at a different nearby church.
Reyes took sanctuary with her children after a long-standing application for asylum was turned down. Her two youngest children are U.S. citizens. She has said returning to Honduras, from where thousands have fled crime and poverty, could get her killed.
“Whatever it takes, I will do for my children,” she said as she entered sanctuary in September 2018. "I am father and mother to them, and I don’t want them to be separated from me.”
Still living at FUMCOG, as the church is known, are Clive and Oneita Thompson, who lived in South Jersey after coming to the United States from Jamaica in 2004. They fled their homeland after being threatened with death by a gang.