Austin Church providing sanctuary to women scheduled for deportation

A Central Austin Church is providing sanctuary to a woman who was supposed to be deported Thursday.

She fled her country because she experienced discrimination due to her sexual orientation.

Sulma Franco is in a classroom at the church. She has a shower. People are bringing her food. She is not leaving to insure she is safe.

Franco first came to the US in 2009. Before coming here, she graduated with a Degree in Psychology in Guatemala. She then began helping students who identified as LGBT.

Due to Franco's being a lesbian and her work with the LGBT community she says she suffered beatings and received death threats.

She fears if she returns to Guatemala she will be killed. So she asked to take sanctuary in the First Unitarian Universalist Church.

Sulma Franco says, "One of the biggest fears is psychological. I fled the country because of all the things that it happened to me and going back now only is the fear of what I would go through in my life being being a LGBT but what my family would go through not only am I discriminated against for my sexual orientation but I'm also discriminated because I was helping with a social movement and I'm now in the United States and being discriminated against for being an immigrant."

Reverend Meg Barnhouse with The First Unitarian Universalist church says, "I'm excited. I feel honored to be a part of what's keeping her alive."

FOX 7 reached out to us immigration and customs enforcement. According to ICE, Franco has exhausted all legal options. She was denied an appeal in 2013 and was ordered to report to ICE yesterday. There is a petition online and supporters are hoping to be able to have her stay here in the US without legal status.

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