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Jamaican couple steps into freedom after 843 days in Philly sanctuary


Oneita and Clive Thompson on Monday celebrated their freedom after spending more than two years – 843 days – living in sanctuary in Philadelphia churches to avoid deportation.

The Jamaican couple said they received notice from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement last week that the agency will support their case to stay in the country, The Philadelphia Inquirer first reported. Over the course of two years, the Thompsons gained national attention as one of many undocumented families that sought refuge in churches after President Donald Trump came into office.

“You just feel victorious,” Oneita told USA TODAY on Monday. “Like a burden has just fallen off the shoulders.”

Oneita said she and her husband came to the U.S. in 2004 to flee gang violence. Federal officials denied them asylum but they were given permission to work. In 2018, the Thompsons, who have five children, received a notice to leave the country.

The New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia, a faith-based immigrant advocacy group, supported the Thompsons and helped them find refuge.

“Today was a really joyful moment,” New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia co-director Peter Pedemonti told USA TODAY. “It’s kind of an amazing time for this to happen right before Christmas.”

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