Church shelters woman seeking asylum

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- A Charlottesville church is sheltering a Guatemalan woman who came to the United States seeking asylum and who is now threatened with deportation.

At a Monday press conference, Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church Pastor Isaac Collins said the congregation's decision to protect 44-year-old Maria Chavalan Sut was in keeping with the teachings of Jesus Christ.

"We lift our voices with Maria to say that she deserves to be free, and we implore any and all authorities to intervene in her case to grant Maria relief," Collins said.

Chavalan Sut is a member of an indigenous community in Guatemala that faces persecution. She came to the U.S. seeking asylum and was allowed to enter while awaiting a hearing.

At the press conference, her attorney, Alina Kilpatrick, said immigration authorities did not tell Chavalan Sut the date or time of that hearing, and she missed it.

As a result, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, has ordered her to be removed from the country. The church is offering her sanctuary while she fights to remain in the U.S.

The church is receiving support from other clergy and activist groups that favor immigration reforms.

An ICE spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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