An undocumented immigrant who has "always lived in fear" of deportation said on Tuesday she moved into a Philadelphia church as part of a national civil disobedience action aimed at pressing President Obama on immigration reform.
Honduran-born Angela Navarro, 28, said she will remain with her family in the West Kensington Ministry church until a deportation order against her is lifted.
She was caught trying to cross the border into the United States when she was 16, and has defied a final deportation order issued against her for more than 10 years, avoiding authorities as she worked as a cook, married a US citizen and gave birth two children.
"I've always lived in fear," said Navarro, who avoided writing her name on documents to keep it secret from authorities who might learn where she lived. "It's been horrible."
Navarro is the ninth undocumented immigrant who has taken refuge in a church recently as part of what activists are calling the New Sanctuary Movement (NSM). Organisers offer sanctuary in churches because federal guidelines prohibit arrests in sensitive areas unless there is a threat to public safety or national security.
A petition to the US government says: "We are called to stand in solidarity with Angela's leadership. As people of faith, we cannot witness the inhumanity of deportation and stay silent. All families are sacred and each individual deserves justice, dignity, and hospitality, regardless of their immigration status."
Churches in Chicago and the Arizona cities of Phoenix and Tucson have begun sheltering immigrants, and organisers say the plan is eventually to include some 24 churches or synagogues in 10 cities.
Obama, who delayed promised executive action on immigration until after November's congressional elections, was expected to announce a series of executive actions on immigration before the end of the year, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said on Saturday, a move that could spark a fight with congressional Republicans.
Republican critics of immigration reform have denounced as "amnesty" any effort to provide a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.
Navarro says she does not know how long she will live in the church, which has fashioned a living space in a room at the rear of the building.
She will live there with her husband, Ermer, eight-year-old daughter, who is also named Angela, and 11-year-old son Arturo. Navarro's children and husband will be allowed to exit the building, but she could face deportation if she leaves.
"It would be much harder to be deported and be separated than it is to live here," said Navarro, saying she can pass the time playing her guitar.