AUSTIN -- A Guatemalan refugee and her two-year-old son are seeking asylum in an Austin church, with the blessing of the congregation.
According to the federal government, more than 100,000 Central American adults and children have crossed the U.S.-Mexico border since 2014. Many of their requests to stay are denied.
Hilda Ramirez and her son are seeking sanctuary inside St. Andrews Presbyterian Church.
Speaking through a translator, Hilda "couldn't take any more of the violence and oppression against women that was going on in her country. Now that her case has gone so public she doesn't even want to imagine what would happen to her if she goes back."
Ramirez spent 11 months in a detention facility. After being allowed to leave, she was scared to hear that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was detaining and deporting women and children who are in the United States illegally.
"A sanctuary is not just a fancy room with velvet pews and stained glass windows," said Rev. Jim Rigby with St. Andrews Presbyterian Church. "A sanctuary is a place where God's love and protection are a living reality."
Member of local churches and clergy are standing behind Hilda and hoping to build a strong sanctuary movement across Central Texas.
"I don't believe there's any rule of government or rule of society that compels us to send her back," said Senior Pastor Karen Thompson of the Metropolitan Community Church of Austin.
This isn't the first time a refugee has sought sanctuary inside an Austin church. In June 2015, Sulma Franco, also from Guatemala, was welcomed to stay inside the First Unitarian Universalist Church in Central Austin.
After two months of living there, the Federal Government granted her a one-year stay of deportation. Her case is still pending.
For now, Hilda still wears an ankle monitor so authorities know where she is. She believes here inside the church, she's safe.
"She knows they cannot come here on the property," her translator said.
A church cannot legally offer sanctuary from federal immigration officials, however ICE has an unofficial policy that it avoids entering public schools, hospitals and churches.