Austin City Council considers resolution supporting immigrants in church asylums

For Hilda Ramirez and her 12-year-old son Ivan, St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Austin is home.

Meaning, they live within the church walls.  

"Hilda does not leave this building except to go in the back fenced-in playground area that we have where she has a little garden," said Rev. Babs Miller, a minister at St. Andrew's. 

Miller says the mother and son have no criminal record.  They fled from violence in Guatemala. 

"We helped them get to a point where they...were allowed to move around the country but when it came to renew that differed action, ICE would not renew it.   And in fact they issued an order of deportation," Miller said.

St. Andrew's is part of the Austin Sanctuary Network.  The coalition of faith communities and social justice groups support immigrants fleeing violence in their native countries.

"From any faith-based perspective, this is what we're called to do," she said.

This week the Austin City Council will consider a resolution that would publically show support for Hilda and Ivan along with Alirio Gamez from El Salvador -- who is in sanctuary at First Unitarian Universalist Church.

Council Member Leslie Pool tells Fox 7 in part  "The resolution is largely symbolic but meaningful because it would show that the City Council is united in its request to halt the deportation of three individuals, including a mother and child, whose lives would be in danger if returned home."

The resolution urges the Texas Congressional delegation to assist in preventing the deportation and directs the city manager to send certified copies to Homeland Security and ICE.

Miller believes Austin City Council members represent the community, those who voted for them and those who didn't have a vote.  She's hoping this passes on Thursday.

"For the City Council not to do this would be saying 'we don't care if it's unsafe for people here to live, we don't care about those people' and I don't know how as a human being that we can say that about other human beings," Miller said.

Andy Hogue with the Travis County Republican Party tells Fox 7 Austin: "Immigration reform cannot wait. That families in our own city are choosing to languish in night shelters rather than navigate the complexities of our immigration bureaucracy is proof-positive that the entire system needs a comprehensive, top-down reform. Republican-led efforts to fix immigration policy continue to be blocked and even undermined by "sanctuary city" policies, like here in Travis County. But this doesn't change the sad reality that families are being denied swift answers about whether they're allowed to be in the U.S. We can do better."