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Faith Leaders Urge ICE to Stop Deportation of LGBT Activist

Local faith leaders urge U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement to stop deportations. Credit: Bethany Carson.
Local faith leaders urge U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement to stop deportations. Credit: Bethany Carson.
July 30, 2015

AUSTIN, Texas – A group of faith leaders and activists gathered at First Unitarian Universalist Church in Austin on Wednesday in an effort to stop the deportation of Sulma Franco, an LGBT activist from Guatemala.

Franco has been living in sanctuary at the church for the past two months.

Cristina Parker, immigration projects director for Grassroot Leadership, says more than 60 clergy from across Central Texas signed a letter to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in support of Franco's case.

"They sent a letter today to ICE, saying that they stand by Sulma, that they don't want her deported,” Parker relates. “The only reason that she faces deportation now is over a clerical error. ICE has been clear before that they want to, you know, prioritize their resources. And Sulma should not be a priority."

Franco was detained during a routine meeting with ICE because her previous attorney failed to file paperwork. Parker notes that Franco spent almost a year in three different detention facilities in Texas and Arizona before being released on a $15,000 bond.

In June, after Franco reached out to local immigrants’ rights groups, First Unitarian Universalist Church offered sanctuary protection.

Franco has since been working with attorneys and community groups to convince ICE to stop deportation proceedings.

"A business owner who wants to work in her community, who's become part of that community, who's part of a church,” Parker relates. “This is not someone who should be a priority for deportation. We need her here."

Franco came to the U.S. in 2009 seeking asylum and started a food truck business with her partner.

Parker adds Franco is reluctant to return to Guatemala because LGBT activists there are frequently targets of violence.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - TX