Russian immigrant in Northampton sanctuary is free to seek legal residency

Hampshire County

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – A news conference Thursday morning announced a Russian immigrant had her case re-opened after being in sanctuary at the Unitarian Society of Northampton and Florence since 2018.

According to a news release sent to 22News, Irida Kakhtiranova, a Russian immigrant who entered sanctuary on April 6, 2018, had her case reopened by the Board of Immigration Appeals this week. This means she is free to leave the protection of sanctuary, and that she can pursue a path to legal residency.

I hope that all the other immigrants who are waiting for their better day, will find it too. I’m grateful to everyone who is working to make that happen.

Irida Kakhtiranova

The news release states Kakhtiranova is married to a U.S. citizen and the couple has three U.S.-born children. In 2003, she came to the United States from Russia and worked for many years in restaurants. She was one of about 50 undocumented immigrants who sought refuge in houses of worship around the country after the Trump administration came into power.

The Unitarian Society’s minister, Reverend Janet Bush, said “We are so grateful and so happy for Irida and her family. Collectively we have demonstrated the power of community and of living our faith and values. ”

“I am still in shock. I feel so relieved that I can live in peace with my family and return to my work. Thank you to my lawyer Megan Kludt, and to EVERYONE who has helped keep my family together. You have become part of our family,” Kakhtiranova

Lucio Perez was at the event to support Irida, “I just feel really happy.” He was also able to end his sanctuary recently.

Coming from Guatemala in 1999, he also took refuge but at First Congregational Church in Amherst in 2017. Irida and Lucio used Zoom to keep each other’s spirits up in a tough time throughout the years and Thursday was the first time they could meet in person.

Irida said Thursday was the 17th anniversary she met her husband and they finally get to spend it together.

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