Northampton mayor: I respect and support church’s decision to take in Russian immigrant

Hampshire County
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The Unitarian Universalist Society of Northampton and Florence will held a news conference Tuesday afternoon regarding their decision to provide sanctuary to a Russian immigrant facing deportation.

Irida Kakhtiranova entered sanctuary at the church on Friday.

Unitarian Society of Northampton providing sanctuary for Russian woman facing deportation

The Pioneer Valley Worker’s Center said the decision to provide sanctuary to Kakhtiranova was a result of a congregational vote in December that declared member’s willingness to provide physical sanctuary to someone in need.

Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz said he supports the church’s decision to open its doors to Kakhitiranova, and will not interfere with the congregation’s “principled act of conscience.”

“USNF leaders reached out to me last fall seeking my guidance and support prior to their vote to become a sanctuary congregation,” Narkewicz said. “I offered both, reminding them of my 2014 executive order declaring Northampton a sanctuary city whose police department would not voluntarily carry out or enforce federal immigration policies.”

According to the PVWC, Kakhtiranova came to the U.S. from Russia in 2003. She is married to a U.S. citizen, has three children who are U.S. citizens, and is said to be the sole wage earner in her family.

ICE Public Information Officer John Mohan told 22News Kakhtiranova was ordered removed by an immigration judge in 2007.

“In an exercise of discretion, Ms. Kakhtiranova was enrolled into the Alternatives to Detention program on the condition that she voluntarily depart the United States,” Mohan said. “Ms. Kakhtiranova subsequently violated the terms of this agreement by failing to depart the United States. As a result her noncompliance, she is now considered an ICE fugitive.”

Kakhtiranova requested sanctuary from the church while she fights her deportation case.

Narkewicz said he put the church in communication with city departments to ensure the congregation would be in compliance with health and safety codes.

The mayor also called upon President Donald Trump to “end his hateful and divisive immigration policies that run counter to our proud history as a nation founded and built by immigrants.”

Mayor Narkewicz’s full statement is below:

I respect and support the Unitarian Society of Northampton and Florence (USNF) decision to take an undocumented immigrant into sanctuary and pledge that my administration will not interfere with the congregation’s principled act of conscience.

USNF leaders reached out to me last fall seeking my guidance and support prior to their vote to become a sanctuary congregation. I offered both, reminding them of my 2014 executive order declaring Northampton a sanctuary city whose police department would not voluntarily carry out or enforce federal immigration policies. We also reviewed the federal government’s designation of religious institutions as “sensitive locations” where ICE enforcement actions should not be conducted. Finally, I put them in communication with several of our city departments to ensure that the congregation would be in compliance with health and safety codes, which they are.

I support the right of the Unitarian Society or any of our faith-based communities to offer sanctuary. Providing aid and comfort to those in need is a central tent of their faith, the free exercise of which is a bedrock tenet of our U.S. Constitution.

I continue to call upon President Trump to end his hateful and divisive immigration policies that run counter to our proud history as a nation founded and built by immigrants. It is truly a sad day for America when a hardworking and loving mother of three U.S. citizen children married to a U.S. citizen is forced to hide in a church basement while she attempts to resolve her immigration status. Congress can and must act to reverse these policies and fix our broken immigration system.
 

ICE’s full statement is below:

Ms. Irida Rafikovna Kakhtiranova, a citizen and national of Russia who originally entered the US in 2003, and was subsequently ordered removed by an Immigration Judge in 2007.

In an exercise of discretion, Ms. Kakhtiranova was enrolled into the Alternatives to Detention (ATD) program on the condition that she voluntarily depart the United States. Ms. Kakhtiranova subsequently violated the terms of this agreement by failing to depart the United States. As a result her noncompliance, she is now considered an ICE fugitive.

Current ICE policy directs agency personnel to avoid conducting enforcement activities at sensitive locations unless they have prior approval from an appropriate supervisory official or in the event of exigent circumstances – see link. The locations specified in the guidance include schools, places of worship, and hospitals.

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