Hilda Ramirez Speaks Out for Refugees Despite ICE Intimidation

Hilda Ramirez (Photo by Jana Birchum)

While all Austinites have been avoiding the threat of an invisible virus, many have also been facing the visible and daily threats and horrors of detention and deportation. Hilda Ramirez knew what isolation was like for years before the coronavirus pandemic sent us all into hiding. A Guatemalan refugee seeking asylum in the U.S., Ramirez and her son, Ivan, took refuge at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Austin after nearly a year of detention at the oppressive Karnes County Residential Center in South Texas, and they've been living in sanctuary here for much of the last four years. Although she was initially reluctant to speak out publicly, Ramirez bravely came forth to share her story and stand up for the many refugees in sanctuary like herself, and now she faces outrageous consequences for using her right to freedom of speech. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has fined Ramirez over $300,000, and a series of emails recently uncovered by Austin Sanctuary Network, Free Migration Project, and Grassroots Leadership as part of ongoing litigation show that ICE has directly targeted sanctuary leaders. Yet through the struggle of their pending asylum case, the vitriol and intimidation from the Trump administration, and the pandemic, Ramirez and Ivan have spent much of their time making hundreds of masks to donate to people experiencing homelessness. Though she's exhausted and traumatized, Ramirez still has hope and is a strong voice for so many who have endured the atrocities of the Trump administration and refuse to back down.

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