A couple who hid in a church basement for 843 days in the American city of Philadelphia has finally emerged after being granted asylum in the US.
Following a US Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) ruling, Oneita and Clive Thompson were due to be deported in 2018 and decided to take sanctuary in the First United Methodist Church of Germantown, Philadelphia just a few days before their deportation date.
Two years later, the family relocated to Tabernacle church in the west part of the city after relations with the first church became complicated.
“When we got the letter from ICE, I was just looking at it in shock. It’s a big breakthrough – after working so long, this is a miracle. I feel like all the stress is drifting away, and everything is lighting up with joy,” Clive Thompson said in a statement.
“Here we are, walking out of the church. We’re going to go back and live the American dream.”
The Jamaica-born couple arrived in the US in 2004 after gang members burned their farm and threatened to kill them.
In a Facebook video post by the advocacy group supporting the family, New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia, Oneita recalled how she felt “fearful, but not doubtful.”
“I was very fearful, after losing the will to fight. I was fearful and asking myself, “How did we get here?” I turned to the Bible. God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7.”
“Some days…I felt I just wanted to kick the walls down. Not the physical walls of the church, but the walls of justice. The walls of racism, walls of lies, the walls of a black woman don't have a voice of her own,” she added. “No wonder I prayed and fasted more than I ever done before,” she concluded.
The lifting of the removal order enables the Thompsons to apply for a permanent right to remain in the United States.