Mother seeks sanctuary in Denver church to stop deportation to El Salvador

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DENVER -- An undocumented immigrant is seeking sanctuary in a Park Hill church to avoid deportation to El Salvador, a place she said if she returns to, she could be killed.

Araceli Velasquez fled El Salvador in 2010 after she said people leveled death threats against her. She came to the U.S. seeking asylum. Since her arrival, she met and married her husband and now has three children, all are U.S. citizens.

Velasquez says the U.S. denied her request for asylum. On August 9, she was supposed to meet with an Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer. Velasquez said she feared she'd be deported, so she turned to Park Hill United Methodist Church where she sought sanctuary. She now plans to stay in the church with her family until she is safe from deportation.

"I feel scared and nervous," said Velasquez. "It's not easy to be here but the most important thing for me is that my family is together and that we're together."

Velasquez is one of two people in sanctuary in Colorado right now. Since 2014, five undocumented immigrants have sought sanctuary in Colorado churches.

"It is very sad to me that those of us who have come here seeking safety and asylum in the United States have to end up taking sanctuary in a church to remain together and be safe together," said Velasquez.

FOX31 contacted a spokesperson for Immigration and Customs Enforcement about the case. The spokesperson said no one was available to give information Friday and ICE would follow up next week.

It's estimated 12 undocumented immigrants across the U.S. are publicly in sanctuary right now and another 25 people are in sanctuary in secret.