As a Peruvian woman facing deportation was able to leave her church sanctuary in Springfield on Monday on a stay of removal, a Russian woman's fight against deportation is very much ongoing.
Irida Kakhtiranova has been living in a Northampton church since April after immigration officials denied her an ability to stay.
In her first on-camera interview, she spoke exclusively to Western Mass News on how she reached this place and what she has to say to the community.
The Unitarian Society of Florence and Northampton has been home for Kakhtiranova for the last two months.
Kakhtiranova came to the U.S. with a visa from Russia in 2003. She is the wife of a U.S. citizen and a mother of three who had been issued stays of removal after overstaying an educational visa.
That stay was denied in April and now, she is fighting from inside these church walls to stay.
"This is home, this is home," Kakhtiranova said.
Kakhtiranova didn't want to show her face on-camera, but she smiled as she talked with Western Mass News about Massachusetts, where she has lived since 2009 after coming to the U.S. from Russia on a student visa in 2003.
"I came to this country to apply for an asylum at the time and I did," Kakhtiranova added.
Kakhtiranova's visa expired and since 2012, the mother of three and wife of a U.S. citizen has applied for what is called a stay of removal. She applied each year and checked in with immigration officials.
Under the Obama administration, immigrants without documents and criminal backgrounds were not a priority for deportation.
That policy has changed under the Trump administration and in June, her stay was denied.
"I pay taxes, I work, I do the right thing. I don't ask for welfare, I just rely on myself and my husband and I did everything right by the government. If they didn't give me the chance to fight further with my case, I have no other option, but to fight for here from safety," Kakhtiranova said
To avoid deportation, Kakhtiranova came here to the Unitarian Society.
When asked about the possibility of being sent back to Russia, Kakhtiranova told us: "to answer your question, I cannot think it would be safe now. I look at pictures and videos, the country is the same."
While Kakhtiranova said that she is grateful for this safe place, she said she misses being outside and working in a restaurant as the provider for her family and how she spends time talking to her husband and children through a computer screen.
"Every time I Skype with them, they say 'Mommy, I wish you were home," Kakhtiranova said.
This past weekend, a fundraiser was held for Kakhtiranova in an effort to raise money to pay for legal fees associated with fighting the deportation order.
The gesture touched Kakhtiranova, who said that she built a community and family through her years of waitressing in western Massachusetts.
"We only counted on ourselves, so for us to get help from anybody else, it was tough for the beginning, but it was tougher to believe people were so supportive," Kakhtiranova noted.
As for what is next for Kakhtiranova, she is awaiting documents from immigration officials and said that she is intending to hire a lawyer to fight her order of removal.
Until then, the church will be home, which Kakhtiranova told us is far better than detention in a cell or being deported.
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