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Charlottesville Church Offers Sanctuary to Woman Facing Deportation

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Maria Chavalan is seeking asylum in the United States. Maria Chavalan is seeking asylum in the United States.
Chavalan had her home in Guatemala burned down. Chavalan had her home in Guatemala burned down.
ICE is demanding she leave the United States. ICE is demanding she leave the United States.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) -

A Guatemalan woman is asking for help and support in Charlottesville after Immigration and Customs Enforcement told her she had to leave the United States.

Maria Chavalan said she fled to the United States from her native country after her house was set on fire with her family inside. Now, she is seeking asylum in a Charlottesville church.

“I came here to the United States because I was not feeling safe in my country,” Chavalan said.

Chavalan said people threatened to kill her if she did not give up her land in Guatemala. They later made good on that promise by setting her home on fire with her family inside.

Right now, Chavalan is living in Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church. Before her case could head to trial, the 44-year-old received a notice by ICE to leave the country. 

Chavalan’s lawyer explained her story by saying she was released by ICE to appear in court and preset her case after passing her interview at the border. Later, she was served with a notice from ICE, but it did not include a date or time to appear.

Due to her absence in court, she was ordered to leave the United States by September 30.

Chavalan and her team of supporters plan to fight against ICE’s orders.

“I am here to stand up to this administration and do everything I can within the law and fight them and lob at them everything possible until Maria and all of my other clients are safe and free,” said sanctuary lawyer Alina Kilpatrick.

Kilpatrick added that Chavalan has a good case for asylum and she plans for her to get her day in court. Activists also spoke about the need for the city to break ties with ICE and asked that community members support those fleeing for safety.

For now, Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church has agreed to take her in until she can get her day in court.