The church of the Advocate in northern Philadelphia has become has become more than just a place of worship for an immigrant mother and her four children. The family has taken refuge inside the church in an effort to avoid a return to Mexico that the mother feels would cost the family their lives.
Thirty-six-year-old Carmela Apolonia Hernandez was ordered to leave the United States no later than December 15. The order to leave the country was issued after a petition by the family seeking asylum was denied. Hernandez knocked on church doors for eight days before her and her family was taken in by the Advocate.
Hernandez, speaking in Spanish made it clear that she is ‘not hiding.’ Hernandez goes on to express that she is fighting for the opportunity to build a quality life for her children. She also expressed solidarity with the ‘injustice’ she feels too many immigrants are forced to endure.
Wednesday morning, a large group of church members congregated inside the church to welcome the Hernandez family. The churchgoers held hands while singing church hymnals and pledged their support to the family.
Hernandez expressed gratitude at the outpouring of support her family has received. Hernandez gave a string of interviews given to Philadelphia area media sources and patiently answered questions for hours.
Immigration enforcement officials were contacted for comments on the Hernandez case but declined the invitation.
Immigrant advocacy groups say that cities that claim to offer sanctuary for immigrants throughout the country are not only obligated to protect particular immigrants from deportation but should also accept the responsibility to challenge the United States immigration system.
Sheila Quintina, who works with Philadelphia’s New Sanctuary Movement in the capacity of community organizer believes that offering sanctuary to ‘undocumented people’ who are to be anonymous ‘exploitable labor’ is a necessary means of protesting the injustice inflicted upon immigrants in our nation.
For Carmela Hernandez, her American plight began in 2015 when here and her children fled her native Mexico to escape the drug violence that had already claimed the lives of two of Hernandez’ nephews as well as her brother. The three relatives of Hernandez that were killed all worked as taxi cab drivers and were murdered because they did not possess funds to pay off extortion fees that were forced upon them.
Hernandez states that the gangsters that had already killed three members of her family came to her home to threaten her and her eldest while demanding that money is paid to them.
More on the case of Carmela Hernandez and her children can be seen at Philly.Com