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Immigrant facing deportation leaves church sanctuary after 3 years

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (AP) — A Russian woman has left the Massachusetts church she's lived in for nearly three years to avoid deportation after federal officials agreed to reopen her asylum case.

Irida Kakhtiranova celebrated the occasion with supporters Thursday outside the Unitarian Society in Northampton.

“I still have a long road ahead of me, but now I have a path,” she told supporters Thursday, the Daily Hampshire Gazette reported. “I hope that all the other immigrants who are waiting for their better day will find it, too.”

Kakhtiranova came to the country in 2003 and overstayed her visa. She was granted stays of removal for years until 2017, when she was ordered to leave under former President Donald Trump’s administration, the newspaper reported. Kakhtiranova sought refuge in the church instead.

The mother of three said she looked forward to celebrating her 17-year anniversary with her husband and restarting her pierogi-making business.

Kakhtiranova was among more than 70 immigrants nationwide who took sanctuary in churches under Trump. Churches have long been treated as off-limits for immigration enforcement.

Last month, a Guatemalan man left an Amherst church after more than three years, and a Guatemalan woman living in a Bedford church was granted a temporary reprieve to remain in the country.

 

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