Guatemalan refugee reflects on ICE raids
Maria Chavalan Sut, a local Guatemalan refugee, is reflecting on the Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids that happened in a few big cities in the United States on Sunday.
last September, she said she feels a lot better with supporters by her side.
"I've been living here for close to a year and I'm feeling better," Sut said.
Maria witnessed her uncles and cousins killed in Guatemala by being buried alive, but went on to study to become an educator and teach math to teens who couldn't attend school in Guatemala City. But in 2014, a group threatened her if she didn't sell her land and followed through, burning her home while she and her family were inside. That prompted her to seek freedom in the United States for a chance at a new life.
"I want to be free. I want to work, to go out and work," said Sut. "I see here you have to have legal papers to do that. I just want to be a free person."
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement threatened to deport Sut and gave her a deadline, which was September 2018, to fly back to Guatemala.
Instead, she took sanctuary at the church to give her time to present her asylum case.
However, Sut never got the chance to present her asylum case to an immigration judge and has been challenging it through a motion to reopen her case, but the legal process can take years.
After President Donald Trump announced that ICE officers would start to raid communities for immigrants with deportation orders, Sut said she was scared but trusted that God and her team would keep her safe.
Immigration officers can't enter a church serving as a sanctuary site, which is what her team is making sure stays the same so her rights are protected.
"Working to coordinate 'know your rights' information," said Andrea Negrete, a member of Sut's team. "Making sure that people have access to that information through online platforms or community gatherings."
The responsibility of keeping the community safe is another element of which Angeline Conn said people should always be aware.
"We should be taking a major role to make sure every person is safe from these ICE raids," said Conn.
These rights are something Sut and her team said don't just apply to her case.
"Maria has communicated in the past that she's one of many," Negrete said. "As a community, we need to do what we can do to keep each other safe."
As for the immigrants who were detained by ICE, Sut has a message of faith for them.
"Have faith in God," Sut said. "There's groups of people that support you."