“When President Donald Trump took office in 2017 and began cracking down on immigrants, ICE immediately targeted low-hanging fruit: undocumented immigrants who were deeply rooted in the US and who had reported to immigration officials for years,” wrote Tina Vasquez von Prism earlier this year. This included the Thompsons, who stayed in the US and were allowed to continue working after their asylum applications were rejected. That changed in August 2018 and together with their two youngest children – both US citizens – they went to a sanctuary with the help of the New Sanctuary Movement.
While Oneita did exactly what was asked of her by checking into ICE regularly, she shared Vasquez that she was plagued with guilt because the family was in the sanctuary. “Sometimes I think, where did I go wrong?” she told Prism earlier this year. “Could I have done anything else to stay in this country and make sure my children don’t face these challenges? What else could I have done? I tried to do everything right. I’ve worked hard and paid my taxes. It keeps me up at night wondering if I’ve done something wrong. It feels so terrible to be in a position where you can’t help your family the way you want to.”
The Thompsons were not alone in this torment. Vasquez said last year that dozens of immigrants are in the sanctuary after receiving final deportation orders. While ICE views houses of worship as “sensitive places” that are generally banned for most enforcement actions, the runaway agency has used other avenues to intimidate immigrants in protected areas, including trying to impose astronomical sums of money on them. Edith Espinal-MorenoThe federal government, a mother of two Ohio residents who has been in the sanctuary since 2017, has been ordered by the federal government to pay fines of nearly $ 500,000.
The road to the Thompsons’ victory began when the family filed a retrial after a daughter who was not with them at the sanctuary was granted US citizenship. “Based on two affidavits from the Thompsons, previous letters from Democratic Senator from Pennsylvania Bob Casey, Democratic Senator from New Jersey Cory Booker, and Rep. Dwight Evans, Pennsylvania, and about 200 letters from Church and ward members , ICE decided to join the Thompsons’ application to reopen their asylum case, “reported CNN.
They were finally able to return to New Jersey four days before Christmas. However, they will never be able to regain the more than two years they lost for no reason other than that they were easy targets for the federal government. Can’t either Oneita came back easily from the agony she had been through just trying to protect her family. Hopefully others who are still in the sanctuary are also waiting for their day to come soon.