Woman taking sanctuary in Springfield church granted stay of removal

Hampden County
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A Peruvian immigrant who has been taking sanctuary in a Springfield church has been granted a Stay of Removal. 

According to Director of the Pioneer Valley Project Tara Parrish, Gisella Collazo will leave the South Congregational Church Monday afternoon and rejoin her family. 

Parrish said the stay of release is a temporary postponement that will prevent the U.S. Department of Homeland Security from carrying out the deportation of Collazo. 

“Today I feel happy because I’ll be back at my house with my family, I will be able to do things independent again,” said Collazo. “Take my children to the park and live independently again.”

When Collazo entered sanctuary on March 26 she was facing immediate deportation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. ICE Spokesman John Mohan told 22News Collazo was granted a one-year agency-based Stay of Removal. He said judicial stay delays, but does not eliminate a Final Order of Removal. 

“A Stay of Removal is among the courses of action that the Field Operations Director of ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations has as an option that can be used at his or her discretion on a case by case basis; such a determination was made in this case,” Mohan said. 

Mohan said Collazo entered the U.S. in 2001 on a fraudulent passport and was granted a voluntary departure by an immigration judge in July of 2012. 

Mohan added that Collazo agreed to leave the U.S. voluntarily on or by March 27 and had provided ICE with a travel itinerary to return to Peru. 

“To be able to go outside to do something that most of us take for granted every day, and for her to go outside without fear of depuration or detention from ICE is a real gift for her,” Parrish told 22News.

Parrish told 22News Gisella will stay with her family in Springfield and continue to pursue an adjustment of her immigration status.

Collazo had been living in Springfield for 17-years before taking sanctuary. Her two American children, ages 4 and 11, also stayed with her in the church.

Parrish said Collazo began pursuing adjustment of her immigrant status in 2006 after she got married, and has “faced obstacle after obstacle in her efforts to adjust her status due to multiple attorney errors.”

City of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno openly opposed the church’s decision to allow Collazo and her children to stay there. Shortly after the woman began taking sanctuary, Sarno ordered the city’s code enforcement teams to re-inspect the church for housing and sanitary code violations. 

The church was later given a clean bill of health after no violations were discovered during the inspection of the church. 

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