Open Letter from Carmela Apolonio Hernandez

Free Migration Project is publishing an open letter from our client Carmela Apolonio Hernandez, who has lived in sanctuary in Philadelphia with her four children for the past year. 

December  2018

Dear Friends,

My family and I are still fighting for our freedom.  We invite you to renew your support of our next phase of organizing.  

For nearly a year at Church of the Advocate, we mobilized thousands of supporters in our campaign for freedom. Together we petitioned ICE, called and met with elected officials, delivered scores of support letters to ICE urging a stay of removal, testified at rallies for immigrant and labor rights and in city council, and even occupied Senator Bob Casey’s office. As a result of our bold actions, a City Council Resolution was passed, a private bill was introduced in the House of Representatives and our story for immigrant justice was widely covered in national and local media. Importantly, we forged strong bonds between immigrant and African American communities, built a powerful vehicle for immigrant justice called the Sanctuary Advocate Coalition, and a highly visible campaign led by Jazmin Delgado and Sheila Quintana.

While Senator Casey did not the take the necessary steps to stand with me, Mayor of Philadelphia Jim Kenney, City Council members Helen Gym, Maria Quiñones-Sanchez and Darrell Clarke have stood with me. State Representative Chris Rabb, State Senator Art Haywood, U.S. House of Representatives Dwight Evans and Bob Brady have stood with me. Philadelphia Teachers Union, The Temple Association of University Professionals, Decarcerate PA, Free Migration Project, Juntos, Media Mobilizing Project, New Sanctuary Movement, Project SAFE, Reclaim Philadelphia, Stadium Stompers, Youth Art & Self-empowerment Project, Unite Here, and other social justice and labor organizations have stood with me. The faith community and Philadelphians of conscience have stood with me. We persisted without rest and we must forge ahead to broaden our movement.

In looking ahead, we made an important decision to coalesce with more faith communities and other families currently in sanctuary. My family and I are deeply grateful to the Rev. Renee MacKenzie and the Church of the Advocate who are living testimonies of radical faith and love. And while moving out from the Church of the Advocate, away from the close and caring relationships that we developed in north Philadelphia will be difficult, we are also grateful to the Germantown Mennonite Church community who have offered to carry on the baton with sanctuary and support for my family.

Taking sanctuary at the Germantown Mennonite Church is a reaffirmation of my resolve to fight for our freedom. It is also a reaffirmation to fight alongside other immigrants and black and brown people, who are separated from family and incarcerated in this country through a system that profits from mass incarceration.  

Today ICE is detaining record numbers of immigrant children and their families. The Philadelphia ICE Office is the most aggressive in the country. We must continue to forge alliances and be in the struggle.

Please join me in the growing movement for justice.

Yours in Struggle,

Carmela Apolonio Hernandez


  1. […] who recently announced she was leaving Church of the Advocate to take sanctuary at the Germantown Mennonite Church, is a […]