Seeking Sanctuary From Deportation at an Austin Church

A Guatemalan takes sanctuary in a Texas church, fearful of deportation because she’s gay.

August 4, 2015 7:58 am,

There are many undocumented immigrants here in Texas who are looking for sanctuary from deportation. But very few have pulled the media attention Sulma Franco has.

Franco, a native Guatemalan, is the first person in the state to do so since a nationwide sanctuary movement was reignited last year in Arizona. She left her Central American home country in 2009 and has been seeking asylum since, due to her sexual orientation. She recently took refuge at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin.

Franco says that if she were to be deported, she would face a constant threat of violence and attempts on her life. Franco identifies as a lesbian; Guatemala is not a country that’s tolerant of the LGBT community.

One of Franco’s attorneys says that staying in the church is not a permanent solution, but that they hope to raise awareness and signal to ICE that Franco has the support of the community.

KUT’s Joy Diaz stepped into the Standard studio to speak about Franco’s situation.

Listen to the interview in the audio player above.