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Sanctuary church housing undocumented immigrants

Posted at 11:14 PM, Mar 24, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-24 23:14:09-04

A Buffalo church, that has declared itself a "sanctuary church", has been housing undocumented immigrants for about a month now. 

"Ever since I came into this country, I've lived in fear... I want to hide from everyone and everything," said one of the undocumented immigrants, who's name we've changed to "Andres" for safety concerns. 

According to Andres, he has not felt free since leaving his home country of Guatemala, after receiving death threats from a drug trafficker who wanted his support in an election.

But according to Andres, even while he ran from Guatemala, the threats continued for his family. Andres added the drug trafficking group found his brother and shot him on the back. His brother is still alive, but his family is also living in fear, he said. 

"It's all so dangerous," said Andres in Spanish, which we've translated to English for the piece. "You can't even go out [in Guatemala]. Drug traffickers have all the control in the Government and with the police."

The day after that threat, he says he ran away to Honduras, and shortly after crossed the Mexican border.

"To cross the border, we were clumped in a van one on top of another, where the baggage normally goes" said Andres, while holding a tissue box.

And as of two weeks ago, he's been sleeping on a bed in the Pilgrim-St. Luke's and El Nuevo Camino United Church of Christ Church. A church he now calls "home".

"This is the clothing the reverend here has given us... I'm so thankful for it," said Andres, as he showed the many new button downs he was given during his refuge there.

Andres is one of the 21 undocumented adults who have looked for refuge in that church within the past month, according to the church that's declared itself a sanctuary. It says it's trying to help the families get back on their feet and cross Canada legally.

"The men, the women, the children that come here, they may have arrived as strangers, but they leave as brothers and sisters," said Reverend Justo Gonzalez II, the Pastor at the Church. "They leave as 'familia'... as family."

The church says its working with another organization to help the immigrants fill out paperwork to cross the northern border, and has already helped 10 adults and three children find asylum there, legally.

"The Canadian migration system has put in a very stringent and quick process," said Reverend Gonzalez. "Within 30 to 60 days, they will either be given asylum or rejected."

He has one week left of waiting, but is counting the days for the freedom he's been dreaming of for over a decade.

"I'll feel safer and happier... I have an uncle in Canada waiting for me."