Woman who lived at Chicago church for over 3 years goes home after Biden administration suspends deportations

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Francisca Lino prays with supporters outside the Adalberto Memorial United Methodist Church, 2716 W. Division St., before heading home to Romeoville on Jan. 23, 2021, in Chicago. (John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune/TNS)

By Paige Fry, Chicago Tribune, Tribune Content Agency

CHICAGO – A woman who has lived in a Humboldt Park neighborhood church for three and a half years to avoid deportation returned home Saturday night to live with her family after President Joe Biden’s 100-day moratorium on deportations went into effect Friday.

Francisca Lino took sanctuary in an apartment above the same Chicago church that protected immigration activist Elvira Arellano, Adalberto United Methodist Church, at 2716 W. Division St., after she defied a court order in August 2017 mandating that she leave the country.

Saturday, she was headed back to her Romeoville home. Lino, a mother of six, is one of many immigrants who the government knew were living in the country illegally and allowed to stay, provided they check in with immigration officials every six months to a year.

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Under President Barack Obama’s administration, this population was not considered a priority for deportation because of their clean criminal records or sympathetic cases. But they felt fear under President Donald Trump’s administration. Lino, the church and Democratic politicians held a news conference in July 2019 where they pledged to fight back against what they said were merciless immigration enforcement policies from the Trump administration.

Trump had announced that year that federal officials would begin large-scale deportations in major U.S. cities, including Chicago. Now, the Biden administration has already made moves to assist immigrants. The Homeland Security Department announced a 100-day moratorium on deportations “for certain noncitizens” that started Friday, according to The Associated Press.

It was after Biden revoked one of Trump’s earliest executive orders making anyone in the country illegally a priority for deportations. The three and a half years in sanctuary was very difficult, Lino said, translated by Chicago immigration activist Emma Lozano, a pastor of Lincoln United Methodist Church, during a news conference Saturday.

Lino couldn’t be there for her daughter when she gave birth to her grandson or for another child who had surgery, Lozano translated for Lino. But now, Lino can enjoy the remainder of the 100 days with them. “She said, ‘I’m so happy,’ and that she feels that she can walk out of here without fear, where that wasn’t like that a year ago,” Lozano said, translating for Lino. “And she says that now that she can go home — and it’s been a long time — where she feels free to go home and hug her children.”

After the 100 days, Lino said, “We’ll have to see,” Lozano translated. Lozano also spoke about how activists are calling on Biden to support and pass the American Right to Family Act, which was introduced by Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., in October.

If passed, it would direct the secretary of Homeland Security to grant lawful temporary residence to the parents of citizens if they’ve lived in the United States for 10 years. “Family is a human right, and they’ve been separating our families for years by deportation because of documents,” Lozano said. “When these hundred days run out, we will be ready to see the future of our people.” Lino illegally crossed the U.S.-Mexico border in 1999 but was caught, fingerprinted and released after a few hours.

After a few days, she made a second attempt and successfully crossed. She eventually settled in Bolingbrook with her husband, Diego Lino. Francisca Lino was arrested in 2005 during an interview to obtain her green card because her application did not disclose that she had previously been arrested at the border, her attorney Christopher Bergin previously said.

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He said Lino was the victim of notary fraud and that she had been honest with immigration officials from the start. She was handed a deportation notice in March 2017 during a scheduled Immigration and Customs Enforcement check-in and was told to return to the immigration office Aug. 23 with a plane ticket.

Instead she asked her husband to drive her to the Humboldt Park church, where she had been a member for 15 years. Bergin showed up to Lino’s final appointment with ICE and delivered a letter to immigration officials explaining that she had decided against self-deportation.

Lino later filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against federal officials including Trump, alleging her right to due process was violated during her 1999 expedited removal. They voluntarily dismissed the lawsuit in 2018, six months after filing it. After the news conference Saturday, Lino went back inside to grab a black suitcase.

She stood on Division Street as her husband drove a gray Honda Pilot up to the curb, where three and a half years ago he dropped her off. Lino entered the back passenger seat, and they finally went home.

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