Springfield church opening doors to mother facing deportation

Hampden County

A woman and her two children have entered sanctuary at Springfield’s South Congregational Church on Maple Street.

Members of Springfield’s Interfaith Sanctuary Coalition drove to Hartford to inform Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials that Gisella would be offered sanctuary inside the church for as long as necessary.

“At South Congregational United Church of Christ we understand that we are called upon to love our neighbor and welcome the stranger among us,” said Rev. Tom Gerstenlauer of South Congregational Church. “We stand with Gisella as an act of faith in the face of injustice, and as partners in building the beloved community of God.”

Her two children, ages 4 and 10, will also be staying at the church. Pioneer Valley Project Director Tara Parrish said they’ll still be going to school, but are staying at the church because they are young and don’t want to be away from their mother.

Here is Gisella’s story according to the Pioneer Valley Project: She arrived in the United States in 2001, fleeing poverty. She got a job working in the fields around the Springfield area. In 2005, she got married to an American man and by 2006, she got a work permit. She has two kids. She wants to become an American citizen but she faced some hurdles that included attorney errors.

Members of the clergy told 22News they stand with Gisella during this act of what they call “injustice.”

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno issued a statement regarding South Congregational Church’s decision to take in Giselle and her children, saying they are in violation of building and housing codes and proper non-taxable use of their property.

The mayor added that the city’s inspection teams will be notified.

“I am disappointed that they would use and exploit this family for their own causes,” Sarno said. “Now, I am not a coldhearted person and do have compassion for the family in question, but there must be a clear path to American citizenship, whether it’s this case in Springfield or in other parts of our country. Being first generation, it’s simply not fair to all those immigrants, including my parents, who played by the rules and followed the legal immigration path into America.”

22News Reporter Matt Caron is working on this story and will bring you more information on 22News Starting at 5:00 p.m.

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