Philly church providing sanctuary to undocumented family speaks out against ICE raids

Germantown Mennonite Church.
Photo credit Justin Udo/KYW Newsradio
By KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A Philadelphia church that is currently providing shelter to an undocumented family speaks out on the latest round of Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids across the country and the church's struggle to help keep the family from being deported.

One of the first things you hear during Sunday service at Germantown Mennonite Church is that "No matter who you are or where you are from, you are welcome here,"  

And the church takes what they say seriously. 

For the last seven months, they have provided sanctuary housing for Carmela Hernandez and her four children, who are under the threat of deportation. 

The family lives at the church - a place ICE doesn't typically raid - in fear of being sent back to their home country of Mexico, where they say several of their loved ones have been killed by gangs.

When KYW Newsradio spoke to Hernandez in December, she said no matter what, she will continue to fight to stay in the United States.

"It's not easy to be struggling against ICE. Unfortunately, I cannot return to my country. My daughter and I were both beaten and threaten," Hernandez explained. 

Hernandez also said it's not easy living in sanctuary, but going back to where she came from is not an option.

If she and her family step foot out of the sanctuary shelter, they risk being immediately deported back to Mexico.

"We are more alert, and we're also more confident that our community and our neighbors and other faith communities around us are active and alert and will respond if ICE tries to do anything," Bergen said. 

Germantown Mennonite Church associate pastor John Bergen says his members have taken their cause outside of the church and protested at ICE offices in Philadelphia.

"Trying to put more pressure on ICE to say, 'your raids are not welcome in this community, and your attempts to scare families and scare communities and tear them apart are not welcome here,'" Bergen said. 

He says just the threat of raids and deportation can cause a huge psychological toll on undocumented immigrants and the people helping them. 

"That starts to eat at people, and increases their fear. It affects their ability to get to work. It affects their ability to get kids to school," Bergen added.