Mother, 4 children leave Philly church after 3 years; not 'deportation priority,' ICE says

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- After living in a Philadelphia church for more than three years, an undocumented Mexican mother and her four children were able to leave their sanctuary safely on Wednesday.

Carmela Apolonio Hernandez and her children fled Mexico in 2015 after close family members were killed by a drug cartel. The family has been living in sanctuary since 2017 under threat of imprisonment, deportation and family separation by ICE.

Supporters were waiting outside the Germantown Mennonite Church on Wednesday as Hernandez and her kids walked out.

SEE ALSO: Undocumented family in Philadelphia pleads for help after COVID-19 infection

"I feel like a giant weight has been lifted off the shoulders of my family and me," said Carmela. "I am grateful for the community of support and sanctuary that we have been able to build during more than three years of struggle. They are all my family now. We still have to fight for my U-visa but I can wait for the approval of my case breathing fresh air."

This all became possible after ICE agents confirmed she was not a "deportation priority."

Hernandez says she will continue her fight to obtain stable legal status in the United States for herself and her family.
Copyright © 2021 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.