Build Sanctuary in Philly!

Carmela and her family were issued a family order of deportation after their asylum petition was denied. They came to the U.S. fleeing the violence of the U.S.-backed drug wars in Mexico, which claimed the lives of three of their closest family members and led to physical assault of Carmela and her oldest daughter. Should Carmela and her children be deported, their lives will be in imminent danger.

Carmela and her children have taken Sanctuary in Church of the Advocate - a historic Black church in the heart of North Central Philadelphia - to protest their deportation orders and the injustices endured by immigrants everyday.

Invest in an EXPANDED VISION OF SANCTUARY IN PHILLY by contributing an amount that is significant to you!

Carmela Apolonio Hernandez is strong, fierce and utterly determined in her fight to stay in the city where her children attend school. She needs funds to keep fighting. It costs $1000/month for her family to stay housed in the Church, including room, board, and clothing. There is an additional need of $500/month to cover materials, interpretation, and printing costs that help publicize her case to win broader sanctuary policies in Philadelphia.

Why is this important?

On December 13th, 2017, Carmela, Fidel, Keyri, Yoselin and Edwin took the prophetic and bold step to enter into Sanctuary at Church of the Advocate, a member congregation of New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia. “I am taking Sanctuary to fight for my family, to protest our deportation orders and the injustices of the immigration systems. Everybody deserves to live with dignity and safety,” said Carmela.


When Reverend Renee McKenzie accepted Carmela and her children into sanctuary, the Church of the Advocate became the second black church to join the sanctuary movement. Embedded in the black community of North Central Philadelphia, the Advocate has a long history of resistance to white supremacy. In 1968, Father Paul Washington-a much beloved civil rights leader in Philly-and the Black Power Unity Movement hosted a conference at the Advocate that drew a crowd of 2000 people. In 1970, the Black Panther Party held a conference that was held at the Church of the Advocate and Temple University. The Advocate was also the site for the ordination of the first eleven women priests in the Episcopal Church in 1974.

The offering of sanctuary has long roots in the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition, much like the Underground Railroad of the nineteenth century. Like the Underground Railroad, which affirmed the personhood of enslaved blacks, today's sanctuary challenges the denial of personhood to refugees. At a time when blacks were chattel and counted by the federal government as three-fifths of a person, the Underground Railroad asserted the humanity of slaves by facilitating perilous journeys toward freedom. Like sanctuary, the Underground Railroad was inspired acts of civil disobedience. And, like the Underground Railroad, sanctuary does not offer a permanent solution to the failure of the US to live up to its democratic promise. By recognizing the humanity of those labeled "alien" by the federal government, by seeking to protect the safety and rights of refugees, offering sanctuary continues the legacy of the Underground Railroad.

Today, the North Central community in which Carmela has found refuge is fighting its own struggle for self-determination in the response to mass incarceration, expulsion and displacement. Together, Carmela, her family, and the North Philly community are fighting displacement on multiple fronts: forced migration, mass incarceration and gentrification. A vision of self-determination for Black and Brown communities is a vision of expanded Sanctuary.


Deportations continue to wreak havoc in immigrant communities as the Trump Administration has increased immigration arrests by 45%. The federal administration explicitly targets “Sanctuary” cities such as Philadelphia, and it has stripped young people, refugees, asylees, and other populations from conditional relief programs like Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and DACA. Asylum law, even when applied to its full extent, does not protect the lives of people who have been displaced from their countries of origin by violence and poverty exacerbated by U.S. foreign policy.


Sanctuary at its heart is an act that transforms how we understand what it means to be in community and to invest in each other's humanity in spite of the violences enacted by systems of oppression to keep us divided and subjugated. To that end, the Church of the Advocate is working with a multi-issue coalition of seven Philly-based organizations committed to dedicating support and capacity to the campaign:  
Decarcerate PA 
Free Migration Project 
Media Mobilizing Project
Reclaim Philadelphia 
Stadium Stompers 
The Youth Art & Self-empowerment Project 

With the lived practice of Black-Brown unity and leadership at its heart, the coalition is a further expression of this campaign's historic significance: a community of communities contributing its wealth of experiences, skills, and passions to resisting one of the most insidious processes of dehumanization in present-day United States - transforming crisis into the fulfillment of our capacity to be with and for each other. 

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  • Vanessa Kate 
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Organizer and beneficiary

Alia Trindle 
Philadelphia, PA
Jazmin Delgado 
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