Clergy, opponents of deportation, and the teary mother of Honduran immigrant Angela Navarro held a solemn service in north Philadelphia Tuesday. They blessed Navarro's "journey into sanctuary" as the 28-year-old mother, who was ordered expelled for illegally entering the United States a decade ago, took refuge in the church of West Kensington Ministry on Norris Square.
On Monday, Navarro told The Inquirer she planned to remain, living with her children and husband in a subdivided playroom, until her deportation is rescinded.
She said she crossed the Texas border in 2003, was arrested and sent to court. A year later, after refusing to leave voluntarily, she was ordered deported. Since then she has eluded authorities, kept a low profile in Philadelphia, moved frequently, and worked as a cook while raising a son, 11, and daughter, 8. She said she lived in constant fear of arrest by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Her mother, Maria Turcios, echoed the anxiety.
"It's been 10 years of this fear," Turcios said as she sobbed and addressed about 100 supporters at the church Tuesday. "We want this to end as soon as possible. . . . This is a country of immigrants. It is unfair that she continues to be in this situation."
John Olenick, pastor of Visitation B.V.M. Church in North Philadelphia, told the group he has known Navarro, whom he described as "a loving mother, wife, and faith-filled woman," for seven years.
"She takes this courageous action today . . . in the name of all immigrants who are suffering," said Olenick.
Then, turning to Navarro, he looped a rosary around her neck, saying: "I place this . . . as a symbol of our faith. Remember these long faces. . . . All of us are with you on this journey."
Adan Mairena, pastor of West Kensington Ministry, invited everyone back for another service on Nov. 30.
"It doesn't matter what our legal status is," he said. "We are all children, loving creations, of a loving God."