Guatemalan Refugee Seeks Sanctuary in Charlottesville Church

Oct 9, 2018

María Chavalan is from a persecuted ethnic group in Guatemala. She fled to the U-S in 2015.  Now, ICE is pressuring her to buy a ticket back to Guatemala, but she is pleading her case in court, and seeking sanctuary in a church in Charlottesville. WMRA’s Marguerite Gallorini attended her press conference yesterday.

María Chavalan is not alone: that was the rallying cry yesterday at the Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church in Charlottesville, where she asked for sanctuary. Indeed, ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] has ordered her to go back to Guatemala without even giving her a chance to claim asylum. Here's her attorney, Alina Kilpatrick, explaining the situation.

ALINA KILPATRICK: Maria did not receive notice of her court date. She actually has a really good case for asylum, but she hasn't been able to present that case for asylum because ICE neglected to put a date and time on her notice to appear, as is required by law. We're here because of the legislated racism that is the Immigration and Nationality Act. I am here to stand up to this administration and do everything I can within the law and fight them, and lobby them, everything possible until María and all of my other clients are safe and free.

This press conference took place yesterday on Columbus Day. María Chavalan, through the help of translator Flor López, said a few words as well.

MARÍA CHAVALAN (interpreted by FLOR LÓPEZ):  I don't feel like I am an immigrant on my own continent. All my ancestors are from this continent. Many years ago, when the colonizers came from other places, we received them and welcomed them. So, I came here to the United States because I was not feeling safe in my country.