When Jeanette Vizguerra’s request to stay in the
US was denied, she knew finding sanctuary at a local church was her safest bet.
It’s been two months since she’s walked outside the walls of the First
Unitarian Society Church in Denver, Colorado.
Vizguerra has lived in the US for 20 years.
ICE became aware of her after she was arrested for and pled guilty to using a fake ID to work as a janitor and union organizer in 2009, according to The New York Times. Since then she’s been granted at least five postponements.
Although she regularly checked in with ICE, she sensed that if she went to her appointment after Donald Trump’s inauguration, she would be separated from her four children.
The 45-year-old decided to stay in the church in order to not be separated from her family.
“I need to fight for and defend what I think is right and just,” she told FOX 31. “And the right thing to do is to be with my kids.”
Vizguerra has three American-born children – the youngest is six years old. Her fourth and eldest child is a DREAMer who has three children of her own.
Her family comes to visit her three times per week.
“They are my life,” she said. “And if I’m not with them then my life has no purpose.”
Although she is glad to still be in the US with her family, it’s still a struggle for her.
“Nights when I’m alone [and] my kids aren’t with me is the most difficult part,” she said. “My little [Zury] would always sleep with me. [She] isn’t here so I can’t hug her. And to see the [beds] of my other kids empty, this is the hardest part, that part people don’t get.”
Vizguerra is known throughout Denver for her work on immigration issues.
But being isolated in the church makes her feel powerless. She, along with other immigrant advocates, created the space in which she now lives. It was intended for her exact situation.
“If I was out, I would be able to do more things than just being here,” she said.
From within the walls, she continues helping other undocumented immigrants facing deportation as well.
“How could I not go on? I have a great responsibility.”
Despite this, she’s prepared to stay in the church as long as she has to.
“Right now, there isn’t a next step,” she told Fox 31. “So I can only wait. Only wait. I don’t know how long. One month? Probably longer. But emotionally, mentally, I’m prepared to be here all fours of [Donald] Trump’s presidency.”
On April 20, TIME's named Vizguerra one of the "100 Most Influential People."