Mother from Guatemala Takes Refuge in UWS Church to Avoid Deportation


Debora Barrios, who is taking refuge at a UWS church.

A Guatemalan immigrant with two American children is taking refuge at the Church of St. Paul & St. Andrew at 263 West 86th Street after Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials said she could be deported after a recent traffic stop.

“When I received notice to leave this country it was heartbreaking,” said Debora Barrios, speaking at a gathering and press conference on Thursday at the church. Being forced to leave “would break us apart.”

Barrios has lived in the U.S. for 13 years and her kids — 10 and 2 years old — are American citizens, according to the Daily News.

“It is difficult to understand these tragedies in a country that is supposed to protect the rights of children,” she said.

“We have to remember this is not just happening at the border, it is also happening in New York,” she said.

The church put out a statement, saying it will offer sanctuary to people targeted by ICE. “We follow Jesus and not unjust and racial laws,” the church said.

At the press conference Cynthia Nixon, who is running for governor, said it’s time to abolish ICE and make New York a sanctuary state.

The church is taking donations to raise money for legal help for Barrios, as detailed in the statement.

The mission of St. Paul & St. Andrew is to build a community of radical welcome that follows Jesus into the streets to increase the amount of love and justice in the world.
We are committed to fighting for the empowerment of the last, the lost, and the least. It is this value that drives our work towards LGBTQ+ inclusion, racial justice, gender equity, interfaith partnership, and immigrant rights. We firmly believe that Jesus calls us to stand with those most vulnerable. We will not turn our backs on our neighbors, for we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. We put our love into action.
Now, that love takes the shape of sanctuary. We are a “safe space.” We have prayerfully discerned and committed to providing physical sanctuary for persons who are targeted by Immigration Customs Enforcement. As a Christian community, we follow Jesus and not unjust and racist laws set to tear families apart, rip neighbor from community, and deny people their own humanity.
We are currently providing sanctuary to our friend and neighbor, Debora, and her family. They are being threatened with separation, as Debora is under an order of deportation. Her two kids, a two-year-old and a ten-year-old, would lose their mother. The order, if acted on, would separate her from her husband. As Rev. Dr. K Karpen, Senior Pastor, says, “Families are being torn apart, not just on our border with Mexico, but all over this country. It’s time for us, the church, to stand up and put ourselves on the line and say, this is wrong and it needs to stop. And be willing to pay the cost for doing that. We need to follow Jesus, not random racist laws. These immigrants are our neighbors, and the Bible is pretty clear about what to do for our neighbors.”
This is wrong. We stand with our friend. We stand with her family. Rev. Lea Matthews, Associate Pastor, explains, “as a Christian, I follow Jesus, a refugee, who was forced to migrate and depended on others to make room for him and for his family when his own government set to tear them apart. We, at St. Paul & St. Andrew, are called to be Christian community and follow that example. It is one way in which we materially, physically, and spiritually increase the amount of love and justice in this world.”
It is our belief and our call to stand with Jesus as we “love our neighbors as ourselves.”
TAKE ACTION: Sign this petition to ask ICE Director, Thomas Decker, to let Debora go back to her kids, her husband, her family, her church and her community.
DONATE: We need your help to continue this important work. Write Sanctuary in the memo field.
CONTACT: Rev. Dr. K Karpen, Senior Pastor Rev. Lea Matthews, Associate Pastor Sara Gozalo, Program Director of New Sanctuary Coalition
About St. Paul & St. Andrew: St. Paul & St. Andrew United Methodist Church is a community of radical welcome on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, where all are valued because of who they are and the talents, gifts and energy they bring. As a congregation, we challenge ourselves to follow Jesus into the streets of the city to increase the amount of love and justice in the world. We do this through dynamic and provocative worship, inclusive relationship building and living progressive Christian values.

See the full video of the press conference below:

NEWS | 61 comments | permalink
    1. Sherman says:

      I’m glad Cynthia Nixon wants to turn New York into a “sanctuary state”. We don’t have enough poor people in NYS/NYC already.

      We need to bring in more illegal immigrants.

    2. Brigid Foster says:

      I siged the position and made a donation. What else can I do to help?

    3. Jean says:

      I guess NYC and all the other cities and towns will have to build more churches, and abolish the laws.

      • UWSHebrew says:

        Hi Jean this is the viewpoint of progressives, the end result is having a city that looks like present-day San Fransisco, which was once one of the most beautiful cities in this country. They yell this chant at protests: “No borders! No nations! F*** deportations!”. Thankfully, Trump will stay in office and win a second term.

      • B.W. says:

        Know who else broke the law? The people who sheltered Jews in hidden room and attics and basements during the Holocaust. Schindler broke the law. The Underground Railroad broke the law. Harriet Tubman broke the law. MLK broke the law. The Boston Tea Party broke the law. If saving friends and family and innocent people is breaking the law? Break the law. If standing up for truth and justice is breaking the law? Break. The. Law.

        • UWSHebrew says:

          Gee, now that you’ve invoked the Holocaust, you must be right, right? Disgraceful. Either we are a nation with borders with laws to process immigrants legally, or we’re not.

        • ethnic says:

          The Jews were not allowed to LEAVE a country. Jews were HUNTED DOWN in a country they lived in for centuries. Casually bringing the Holocaust into every injustice is a dangerous, ignorant demagoguery. And also, somehow even today only Jews are expected to stand up for Jews.

        • Dissident says:

          To suggest that a sovereign nation enforcing its borders is anywhere near the moral equivalent of genocide or slavery is nothing less-than obscene.

      • allie says:

        Good thinking, Jean. LESS separation of church and state is JUST what the country needs…………….to fall into complete fundamentalist ruin.

    4. Chris says:

      Why do we have any laws? Lets all do what we want when we want.

      • allie says:

        Yes! Just like the Trump administration?

        • GS says:

          Obama created the mess by governing by diktat, oh I mean executive order…Trump is just undoing what BHO did and is enforcing the law.

      • Zulu says:

        Well Chris, your approach is very binary and that’s not how life works. Not even the law works that way as there is an element of discretion in the application of the law.

        There’s also human decency and sympathy to the hardship both emotionally and financially this family is going through and the fact that if she were to be deported her children would be left motherless.

        Don’t forget that being “American” for most people is purely due to dumb luck. Nobody chooses where they’re born or to whom they’re born.

        And one last thing, not all laws are just or deserving of being laws. Our recent history with the Civil Rights Movement is proof.

        • Chris says:

          Zulu her children can go with her, she broke the law and is a criminal and once you do this you have to pay. Also comparing what is going on here in this country with Hitler’s practices is absurd and dangerous before you know it liberals will killing the folks they disagree with in the streets.

          And who gets to choose the laws one can obey or not?

        • Jose Habib says:

          It’s not dumb luck at all, what a ridiculous, dehumanizing thing to say.

          We are American due to the conscious choices made by our parents, their parents, and so on.

          • Zulu says:

            Except for those who actively choose to immigrate into this country it is not a conscious decision to have been born here or anywhere else for that matter. Since we don’t choose our parents or the circumstances of our birth it is indeed dumb luck to have been born on American soil.

            It’s not dehumanizing at all, it’s in fact part of being human. People attribute way too much of their life circumstances to their actions when in reality it’s luck that has much more to say than anything else.

            Case in point, the life prospectus of a child born to a drug addicted mother compared to that of a healthy well off family. From the strict point of view of the child it is dumb luck to whom they were born and for the rest of their lives their futures will be likely dictated by that single event of dumb luck.

            In the western world particularly, people take far too much credit for their success when in reality it has to do more with luck. It’s not a popular idea because the success rate in this part of the world is comparatively higher to the rest of the globe and people wrongly assume it’s mostly due to merit. However, the truth is that is just by chance that some babies are born in a developed country to affluent parents and others in remote villages to abject poverty. Which baby do you think has a better chance to become the CEO of a Fortune 500 company?

            Luck my friend, it’s mostly about luck.

      • UWS Freedom Fighter says:

        Hey Chris,
        The Shoah, Jim Crow, and slavery were all legal too – the people that hid Anne Frank and Harriet Tubman were lawbreakers.

        When the law is unjust people with morals fight it!

      • Upperwestsidewally says:

        Reductio ad absurdum betrays weakness in the speaker.

      • Bb says:

        Except smoke in Central Park, drink soda, use straws, work as a nudista…

    5. EE says:

      I hope she will be safe now that west side rag has outed her location 😕

    6. Veronica says:

      If the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew had the choice of providing sanctuary or losing their tax exempt status, which do you think they would choose?

      • Gregory Guiteras says:

        Not a member but I am certain the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew would opt to provide sanctuary for undocumented immigrants AND lose their tax-exempt status, and find the means to pay any taxes.

    7. Joseph G Rappaport says:

      Unfortunately, the facts about immigrants and asylum don’t line up with the views made in some of today’s comments. Immigrants benefit our country, as they have throughout its history. (Native Americans might have a different view, of course.) Anti-immigrant views are not new here in the U.S., but virtually all of us are here in spite of those views. Here’s a link with an overview of some of the reasons many objections to immigration don’t hold up: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-real-hoax-about-the-border-crisis/2018/06/21/5999c96e-7589-11e8-805c-4b67019fcfe4_story.html?utm_term=.427ca1eea1cd

    8. CJ says:

      News crews were sshooting video outside the church yesterday. Westide didn’t out anyone.

    9. Ben David says:

      The church says:”We will not turn our backs on our neighbors, for we are to love our neighbors as ourselves.”
      The church should have added: However, if our neighbor disagrees with us politically, we will turn our backs and also ignore laws.

    10. ZoomZoom says:

      Following in the foot steps of the hunchback of Notre Dam – SANCTUARY – SANCTUARY.

      What don’t they get about the word ILLEGAL?

    11. Jerry says:

      Do all the people who speak (seemingly blanketly) about “enforcing the law” realize that prosecutorial judgement is a normal part of our judicial system? Not every person who j-walks is issued a ticket, nor every driver who operates a motor vehicle even one mile over the speed limit, or every person who litters by throwing a cigarette butt into the street. Illegal entry into the United States is a misdemeanor–yes, a misdemeanor. For years and years it has been the policy of the U.S. government to only deport illegal immigrants who have been convicted of a serious crime. I don’t see what is wrong with continuing that approach. Contrary to what some people seem to think, the U.S. Is not under siege from a wave of illegal immigrants. Furthermore, immigrants–and yes, even illegal immigrants–are a net gain to our country. The crime rate among illegal immigrants is lower than the crime rate among native-born Americans, and illegal immigrants, who often pay taxes, are not entitled to almost all forms of government assistance so they do not “milk” taxpayer dollars. I don’t mind people holding differing points of view, but it kills me that derogatory feelings are fueled by gross misunderstanding and misinformation.

      • Jay says:

        You sound just like Cliven Bundy and his cohorts.

        If you don’t like the laws that our representatives put in place, then work with your representatives to change it.

        Otherwise, your suggestion that open borders is beneficial to the country is seriously misguided and insulting the people who immigrated legally and our system of laws.

        • Jerry says:

          @ Jay: you badly misunderstood my comment. To state that I sound like Cliven Bundy is absurd! The point of my comment was that we don’t just “follow the law” in so many other instances; we employ prosecutorial discretion. And, no, I’m sorry, but prosecuratorial discretion is nowhere near the same thing as ignoring the law!

          Prosecuting a misdemeanor with such an extreme level of fervor–to the extent that families with young children are forcibly separated, and absent a true immigration crisis, while falsely claiming that there is one–smacks of hatred and xenophobia.

          To be crystal clear: I was not complaining about our current laws, although a case could certainly be made for reforming them. Nor was I promoting open borders! (I honestly don’t know how you got there from what I wrote.) It puzzles me that people are so full of venom that they cannot appreciate a sensible middle ground. With my previous comment, I indicated that there is a level of prosecutorial discretion that permeates our society and legal system, pointed out that illegal entry into the United States is a misdemeanor, and stated that I thought we were doing fine when the government reserved its most harsh treatment (deportation) to immigrants convicted of a serious crime.

    12. AC says:

      My Mexican parents came into this country with visas, applied for green cards, and eventually decided to become US citizens. It was a long process, but they understood it as the legal process to be followed. Why can’t everyone else follow the law?

      • Zulu says:

        Because most of them are destitute, fleeing from violence and just trying to survive. Your parents were probably much better off than these poor folks. They probably had enough money to pay for rent, feed their family and pay for lawyers and maybe even out of state tuition for their kid’s schooling. Of course, I’m sure they worked hard and deserve every blessing they got but they were also very lucky. And you were very lucky to have been born in that family. But not everybody is as lucky as you, unfortunately.

      • Chris w says:

        Immigrants are a plus to the country but why do these immigrants get in ahead of ones say in Afghanistan who are afraid of getting blown up by isis every time they go to market ? It’s a ver co placated issue.

      • your_neighbor says:

        My parents came here legally too, visa->green card -> citizenship.

        Just follow the law and don’t worry about looking over your shoulder or some outdated institution having to give you sanctuary.

      • Bruce E. Bernstein says:

        AC, what visa did they come on that allowed them to stay for a “long process” before obtaining a green card? most undocumented in NYC overstay their travel visas.

        did they work in the meantime? working was a violation for almost all cases until they got their green cards.

        perhaps they were graduate students who got immediate green cards. if they were lower-skilled workers, that is unlikely.

        perhaps their history was more like the history of millions of current undocumented than you are acknowledging. More power to them, and you should be proud, but i maybe you shouldn’t put down current immigrants so quickly.

        • AC says:

          At Bruce, parents came here on a visa, but had sponsors (family). My dad found work at a hotel; they applied for a green card, which made them permanent residents. My point is that there is a process. We might not like the process, but there must be one in place. Unfair to those who also leave their countries under similar circumstances, and apply legally.
          At Z, my parents came here with 600 dollars & not knowing a word of English in the early 1960. They worked their butt off to afford my sister and I a private education. To this date, they are proud that they never took a dime or any assistance from the government. Old school way of thought, hard work and perseverance. Thanks for your kind words.

          • The Norwegian says:

            I am so glad your parents have a good life for themselves here in the US. I just want to let you know that arriving in the 60s and 70s and getting greencards at that time was a whole differrnt story than today! I myself came in 200 from Norway (yes, the country where Trump wants more people from!!!)and I am telling you it is NOT easy today!! Getting here the legal way for poor people fleeing from poverty and countries who are falling apart is pretty much impossible. Unless you get asylum etc. The way your parents came in the 60s does unfortunately not exist anymore..

      • Norwegian says:

        I am an immigrant from Norway (yes, that country that Trump wants more people from!) and I can tell you that the greencard process is tough, very very tough even coming from Norway, so it must be nearly impossible for poor immigrants fleeing from their country to get one!

    13. Bob Lamm says:

      Sometimes the things I read on this blog are really staggering. This article clearly indicates that there was a press conference about this woman and her children taking refuge in the church to avoid deportation. The photo and the video clearly indicate that this was a PUBLIC event.

      But to the rescue comes EE (always great to hide one’s blunders behind anonymity) to attack the West Side Rag for outing her location. Wow! Can’t wait to hear what’s next from EE.

    14. Oona says:

      “Judge not lest ye be Judged” are not just words, especially when you do not have all the facts. Perhaps it’s my Catholic school education where I learned to obey the rules but have some flexibility. Times Like These I remember, “What you do for the least of me you do unto me”

    15. 9d8b7988045e4953a882 says:

      If people want open borders, where anyone can enter the country freely, then they need to change the law to abolish the immigration system.

      Until then, people who want to live in the United States must go through the immigration system that we have in place. Just like millions of other immigrants have done.

    16. Fed Up says:

      I am so tired of illegals taking advantage of our birthright citizen law to have their anchor babies and then complaining when the United States wants to enforce its laws.

      Our citizens have their own problems: child poverty; pension fund crisis; crumbling infrastructure.

      Please return to your home.

      • Zulu says:

        I hope you’re tired of fresh produce, fast food deliveries, clean bathrooms, cheap nannies, tasty cooked food at your local restaurants, day laborers…

    17. Diane says:

      Nobody really understands the hell these people suffer until it happens to them. What ever your viewpoint we all come from immigrants and it was hell for them. We have not learned true compassion. Something will come into your life to teach you this valuable lesson. We are all One human family. Trump is not my president.

    18. Gloria J Roberts says:

      This is my Church and tjey do wonderful things in the community and fighting againgsy human injust. Stand Strong Stand Tall St. Paul St Andrew

    19. Dissident says:

      To those so indignant at the current Administration for enforcing our borders:

      Both Barack H. Obama as well as Hillary Rodham-Clinton presided over a warmongering foreign policy under which thousands of children, along with other civilians, were bombed in their own countries*. Did you ever express so much as a tenth of the vitriol for them that you regularly do for President Trump and his Administration?

      (*See the work of journalists Jeremy Scahill and Glenn Greenwald, for a start.)

    20. robert says:

      Pls see below. And by the way these laws have been on the books for years, they are not a new Trump policy. He is just enforcing them. And yes as late as the Obama presidency the supreme court upheld them. The HI case on Monday should also go the way as in “federal supremacy” when it comes to laws

      https://www.justice.gov/usam/criminal-resource-manual-1907-title-8-usc-1324a-offenses

      Consider these provisions of Title 8, U.S.C. 1324(a) Offenses:

      Harboring — Subsection 1324(a)(1)(A)(iii) makes it an offense for any person who — knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that an alien has come to, entered, or remains in the United States in violation of law, conceals harbors, or shields from detection, or attempts to conceal, harbor, or shield from detection, such alien in any place, including any building or any means of transportation.

      Encouraging/Inducing — Subsection 1324(a)(1)(A)(iv) makes it an offense for any person who — encourages or induces an alien to come to, enter, or reside in the United States, knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that such coming to, entry, or residence is or will be in violation of law.

      Conspiracy/Aiding or Abetting — Subsection 1324(a)(1)(A)(v) expressly makes it an offense to engage in a conspiracy to commit or aid or abet the commission of the foregoing offenses.

    21. westsidegirl says:

      Follow the law! Why is this so tough to comprehend?

      • Jerry says:

        Because we don’t just “follow the law” in so many other instances…there is a level of prosecutorial discretion that permeates our society and legal system all over the place. Illegal entry into the United States is a misdemeanor. Prosecuting a misdemeanor with such an extreme level of fervor–to the point that families are separated, and absent a true immigration crisis, while falsely claiming that there is one–smacks of hatred and xenophobia.

    22. dannyboy says:

      I hope that if it becomes necessary to flee, that there is a welcoming country.

    23. Bruce bernstein says:

      It’s illegal to employ undocumented workers, and the burden is on the employer to make sure a worker has legal papers.

      So let me make the following suggestion to ICE:

      Do a full scale sweep of 10 ultra high income buildings on the UWS on any weekday. You will find dozens if not hundreds of cleaning ladies, nannies, and home renovation workers without papers.

      Then, instead of arresting those workers, arrest the rich people employing them. And prosecute these people to the fulleat extent of the law.

      Of course, this won’t happen. But I’ll wager you that if it did, we wouldn’t see so much self-righteousness as we see above about “obeying the law.”

    24. itsthelaw says:

      Is there ANYONE out there who has proposed closing the borders to ALL immigrants? Everyone agrees that immigrants are welcome in this country as long as they enter LEGALLY. Why do we get hung up on what is effectively prosecuting criminals? Come one, come all…just come legally.

      • Jerry says:

        Entering the U.S. illegally is a misdemeanor. 1) We don’t enforce any other misdemeanor to such extremes as in the Trump administration’s recent zero tolerance policy–and families with young children are certainly not separated with any other misdemeanor. 2) Entering the U.S. legally is extraordinarily difficult under any circumstances, but the U.S. has made it even more difficult recently by actively blocking asylum seekers just outside our border, preventing asylum seekers from crossing into U.S. territory legally where constitutional provisions insure that asylum seekers are legally entitled to apply for asylum. 3) It is patently obvious to anyone who cares to notice that so much of our current immigration debate is fueled by demagoguery, hatred, racism and xenophobia. Immigrants (illegal or otherwise) do not have a higher crime rate than native-born Americans and do not cost U.S. taxpayers money by receiving benefits. We do not currently have an immigration crisis, except for the one that has been created, manufactured and invented for us by our current president in order to foment passions and generate votes.

        • Dissident says:

          “Immigrants (illegal or otherwise) do not have a higher crime rate than native-born Americans”

          Even if that were true, it would ultimately be beside-the-point. Our native-born are citizens; for better or for worse, we are stuck with them. In contrast, a sovereign nation has no obligation to accept any immigrants. Even if immigrant populations were to have a zero crime rate, there would still be valid arguments against immigration (and certainly against most of the immigration policies we have had in place since 1965).

          “and do not cost U.S. taxpayers money by receiving benefits.”

          Even Paul Krugman, writing in the same 2006 column that I linked above, stated:

          Unfortunately, low-skill immigrants don’t pay enough taxes to cover the cost of the benefits they receive.

          For much more on the topic of immigration, I would refer the interested reader to the following two web sites as a start:
          https://www.numbersusa.com/
          ( “Nothing about this website should be construed as advocating hostile actions or feelings toward immigrants and other foreign-born people in this country.” )

          https://cis.org
          (“Low-immigration, Pro-immigrant”)