BEDFORD, Mass. (AP) — A Guatemalan woman who has been living in a Massachusetts church for more than three years to avoid deportation has been granted a reprieve to remain in the country for now.
Maria Macario was issued a one-year stay of her deportation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials during a meeting at its Burlington office earlier this week, according to Rev. John Gibbons of the First Parish church in Bedford.
The stay allows her to seek a work permit, pursue legal options and come and go from the church without fear of being apprehended by immigration officials, the pastor said in an email to supporters.
The 55-year-old was ordered to leave the country years ago when her family lost their asylum case. Her husband and eldest son were deported, prompting her to take sanctuary at First Parish.
Macario was among more than 70 immigrants nationwide who took shelter in churches during President Donald Trump’s administration. Churches have long been treated as off-limits for immigration enforcement.
Last month, a Honduran man left a church in Maplewood, Missouri, that he’d been living in for more than three years, following assurances from ICE that it would not pursue his detention or removal.
Gibbons said Macario doesn’t plan to leave the church immediately as she looks to secure a new apartment. The church community also hopes to celebrate her victory virtually, he said.
“Maria is relieved, overjoyed, and thankful to God and to all who have helped and accompanied her for the last three years,” Gibbons wrote.
ICE officials didn’t respond to an email seeking comment.