Living in Sanctuary: Jeanette Vizguerra

Jeanette Vizguerra: activist, mother, immigrant.

My interview with her took place in the First Unitarian Church, conducted entirely in Spanish. Our primary goal was to share her story. Now, I am not here to sway your politics. As I was listening to her story, she got a phone call – her lawyers – saying that her appeals didn’t win. She was denied asylum. This is life in sanctuary.

Constant fear looms over her that at any moment Immigration and Customs Enforcement could knock on the church door and demand for her deportation. The church has signs posted (example below) of what to do, should this occur. Record, don't answer questions, don't be alone, don't panic, but call for help. 

Jeanette has lived in and out of sanctuary while suing for her rights to stay here in the United States, like the nearly 1.1 million people granted green cards in 2017. 

At 47, Jeanette simply wants a better life for her children. After 25 years in the US, she has become a powerful activist within immigrant communities, not only for her stand against ICE but as a union organizer for janitors. Much of her first few years here were spent as a janitor, working for low wages and in poor conditions. A thankless job with no voice for concerns. With her limited English, she managed to unionize thousands of people and demand better treatment, peacefully.

Across the country, many immigrants are still not unionized, and they still reach out to Jeanette for her assistance. With a formal bachelor’s degree from a Mexican university, she is a highly educated woman, fleeing violence in Mexico and searching for opportunity in the US.

Jeanette feels as though she has a target on her back constantly due to her education and power to organize. Her story is unique, yet her fears are very real for immigrants.

Jeanette feels that, as humans, we should have a moral obligation to care about immigration. As the incoming generation, we are the future and we decide what kind of community we want. We must do more than retweet a sad story. We have the power to vote and hit the streets. You must use this power for whatever you believe.