Sulma Franco, an LGBTQ activist from Guatemala, was granted a stay of deportation today by immigration officials in San Antonio. She traveled this morning from Austin to San Antonio with a group of activists and supporters to submit her application for the stay.
Franco had been facing deportation, and since June she'd been living in sanctuary at Austin's First Unitarian Universalist Church. Franco requested asylum in the U.S., but was denied based on a “clerical error,” according to activists working for her cause.
In Guatemala, LGBTQ activists have been targeted and killed, Franco argued. She says that she feared for her life there.
Franco felt nervous in the days leading up to ICE’s decision. She says she'd already lost a year of her life in immigrant detention centers in the U.S. But after her stay was granted, she felt "happy and excited."
"We were able to overcome a great barrier," she says. "We are the voice of the people."
Immigrations and Customs Enforcement today could have deported Franco, or detained her, had they not granted her stay of deportation.
"We are happy that the church and the community have given their support. We want to let immigrants know that they’re not alone, and that the struggle can be won," she says.
The stay will last a year, which will give Franco time to file visa applications and work on her asylum case. She says the plan for tomorrow is to file for a work permit and to renew her Social Security number and driver's license.