1. Various of the First Parish Church in which Maria Macario has been sheltering for three years to avoid deportation to her native Guatemala and separation from her sons who are U.S. citizens
2. Various of Maria Macario showing appliances in her kitchen in the church sanctuary
3. SOUNDBITE (Spanish) Maria Macario, Sheltering in Church for Three Years:
"Tengo tres años, yo entré aquí en el 2018. No ha sido fácil para mí estar separado de mi familia, tener que llorar, que cuando yo voy a hacer algo para comer, cocinar, acordarme de mis hijos, que no estoy con ellos, acordarme de lo pasado cuando yo cocinaba y me reunía con mi familia."
TRANSLATION: "I've been here (the church) three years, I came in 2018. It has not been easy for me being separated from my family, feeling the need to cry. When I do something like eat, cook, (I'm) remembering my children, that I'm not with them, thinking back to the past when I would cook and the whole family would be together."
4. SOUNDBITE (Spanish) Maria Macario, Sheltering in Church for Three Years:
"Pero era el ejército porque bueno, ese es problema de él, es el padre de él o lo secuestraron, lo mataron. Pero de ahí empezaron las amenazas, amenazas para él. Y cuando a él lo amenazaban, él se desesperó. Por eso él se vino para acá. Después, cuando él llegó aquí quedaron las amenazas para mí y yo me vine."
TRANSLATION: "But it was the army because, well, that was a problem for him, (my husband's) father was kidnapped, they killed him. From there, began the threats, threats against him (husband). And when they threatened him, he got desperate. For that reason, he came here (to the U.S.). Afterwards, when he got here the threats started against me and I came."
5. Various of Maria Macario showing relatives depicted in a photo mounted inside her church sanctuary
6. Maria and her U.S. citizen youngest son walk down the church aisle
7. Close up of a photo of Maria Macario's relatives hanging on the wall of her church sanctuary home
8. SOUNDBITE (English) Saul Macario, Mother Sheltering in Church for Three Years:
"It breaks my heart seeing her inside here … Sorry … I guess I just want her to be free."
9. Maria Macario talking to Rev. John Gibbons, senior minister at the First Parish Church
UPSOUND (English) Rev. John Gibbons: "We are … We are part of your family.
10. SOUNDBITE (English) Saul Macario, Mother Sheltering in Church for Three Years:
"I still remember the day she left."
UPSOUND (English) Rev. John Gibbons: "You have helped us very much."
SOUNDBITE (English) Saul Macario, Mother Sheltering in Church for Three Years:
"It was snowing that day. I was sleeping and she just comes in the room and she wakes me up and says she's leaving and ... I don't know what to do. I just cried all night and ... But I'm glad I get to see her. If she was where they wanted to send her I wouldn't have the privilege of seeing her up close."
11. Close up of Maria Macario's hands as she knits inside her sanctuary
12. SOUNDBITE (Spanish) Maria Macario, Sheltering in Church for Three Years:
"Pero también yo estoy segura aquí en la Iglesia yo tengo una una seguridad para mi vida y tengo también agradecimiento porque ellos no me han ayudado sólo a mí, sino han estado pendiente a mis hijos y estoy contenta porque estamos seguros, pero con la administración de este señor que salió, que yo no quiero mencionar el nombre, porque fue tan duro, fue tan cruel que no tiene nada, no tuvo compasión de nada. Especialmente con los niños. Es algo que me duele."
TRANSLATION: "I am safe in the church. I have security for my personal safety and I also have appreciation for them (church staff) because they haven't just helped me but also my children and I'm happy they are safe. But the administration of this man who just left, whose name I don't want to mention because he was so tough, he was so cruel that he had no compassion for anything. Especially the children. It's something that really hurts me."
13. Medium of Maria Macario knitting
14. Maria Macario displays a collage of volunteers who have helped her during her three-year stay in the church
15. Various of Maria Macario practicing writing in English during her language lesson
16. Close up of a picture of Maria Macario's relatives on her wall
17. Medium of Maria Macario talking about the picture
UPSOUND (English) Maria Macario: "That's my family. It's a lot of family."
18. SOUNDBITE (Spanish) Maria Macario, Sheltering in Church for Three Years:
"Pero ahora que este nuevo presidente que tenemos, nuestro presidente Joe Biden, yo puedo sentir de verdad el corazón de ese corazón. Si se puede sentir que él está dispuesto para ayudarnos y por eso yo, pues tengo mi confianza que nos va a ayudar porque. Necesitamos estar con nuestra familia."
TRANSLATION: "But now with the new president that we have, our president Joe Biden, I can really feel what's in his heart. It's possible to feel that he is willing to help us, and for that reason I have faith that he'll help us because we need to be with our family."
19. Exterior view of the First Parish Church that has been home to Maria Macario for more than three years
20. Signage outside the church, with a quote from a poem by Amanda Gorman that she narrated during the January 20, 2021 inauguration of U.S. President Joe Biden: "We will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be, A country that is bruised but whole, benevolent but bold, fierce and free.
For over three years, Maria Macario has been too afraid to leave the confines of the white steepled First Parish church just outside Boston.
The 55-year-old Guatemala native moved in to avoid deportation, spending most of her time in a converted Sunday school classroom with a hot plate, mini-fridge, TV and single bed.
She takes English lessons nearly every day, has become a proficient knitter and started playing the piano.
But she's away from her family and spends most of her time alone.
To keep her spirits up, singers sometimes gather outside to serenade her.
Things changed for her when Joe Biden became president. He set out to pause most deportations for 100 days and pitched a path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million people without legal status in a slew of immigration changes that marked a dramatic shift from former President Donald Trump's harsh policies.
Macario is among dozens of people from Colorado to North Carolina who have taken sanctuary as a last resort to stay in the U.S.
Their actions are extreme, even when Trump's immigration policies generated so much fear and anxiety that many immigrants upended their daily routines to escape authorities' attention, including avoiding driving.
Newly hopeful, they're trying to capitalize on the moment, even with setbacks like a ruling blocking the Biden administration from enforcing its deportation moratorium and uncertainty over whether Congress will take up immigration reform.
Those who have taken sanctuary have enlisted lawmakers to ask Biden for relief, pushing to cancel deportation orders and reviving the use of private bills — when a lawmaker backs a measure to protect a person or group.
Sanctuary activists have sued the federal government.
The modern sanctuary movement began in the 1980s as central Americans fleeing war and poverty came to the U.S. and churches stepped in to offer protection.
It was revived in 2006 when Elvira Arellano, a Mexican immigrant, and her American citizen son moved into the apartment above a Chicago church.
Church World Services estimates at least 38 immigrants are taking sanctuary.
At one point during the Trump administration, the group estimated more than 70 were in sanctuary.
The unwritten rule since the 1970s was churches, playgrounds and schools were off limits to immigration agents.
In a 2011 memo, Immigration and Customs Enforcement under then-President Barack Obama advised agents to avoid arrests and searches at those "sensitive locations."
But under the Trump administration, agents took an Indonesian immigrant into custody on church grounds last year, though a judge later halted his deportation.
The administration also fined several people taking sanctuary up to $500,000, citing federal law allowing fines for those who fail to depart the U.S.
Emboldened by Trump's departure, four sanctuary activists in Texas, Ohio, Utah and Virginia sued the Department of Homeland Security over the fines, alleging they were "selectively targeted" because of their activism.
The fines were reduced to about $60,000 each, but the women say they can't afford to pay.
Several others in sanctuary appeared with Democratic U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro of Texas at a recent event urging Biden to lift their deportation orders and bolster the use of private bills, a last-ditch effort for legal status.
Alex Garcia, a native of Honduras who's lived at a suburban St. Louis church for over three years, was one of the few with a private bill before it died in Congress.
Growing up in violence and poverty, he crossed illegally before being detained in 2015 while accompanying his sister to an immigration office so she could seek asylum.
Francisca Lino thought that threat was over when Biden's deportation moratorium took effect Jan. 22. After spending more than three years in sanctuary at a storefront Chicago church, the Mexican mother of five U.S. citizen children packed her belongings and left for her family's suburban home the next day.
Lino heard a judge temporarily blocked the moratorium four days later, and she cried.
She had already missed the birth of her grandson, graduations and her son's surgery while living above Adalberto Memorial United Methodist Church. After just three nights with her family, she went back into sanctuary.
Immigration attorneys said the ruling doesn't appear to affect Biden's other immigration changes, including focusing deportations on national security and public safety threats instead of just anyone in the U.S. illegally.
In the meantime, people in sanctuary are waiting it out, which has become more isolating during the coronavirus pandemic.
At First Parish outside Boston, volunteers are no longer stationed around the clock in case ICE comes for Macario.
She hasn't worked, let alone stepped off the church grounds to go to the grocery store or a doctor's appointment in over three years.
Macario wants nothing more than to sit in a cafe with her three U.S.-born sons. She crossed the border illegally in the 1990s with a wave of migrants during Guatemala's yearslong civil war, and later her family's asylum case was denied.
She wonders whether she's failed her family by staying and hopes her sons don't resent her.
Saul Macario, her youngest son who is a U.S. citizen, says he doesn't blame her for anything.
The 19-year-old dropped out of high school during the family's upheaval, which included the deportation of his father and oldest brother in recent years.
He moved into the church as the pandemic took hold, in part to keep his mother company but also to get his life back on track.
Last year, under his mother's watchful eye, he earned his GED and now works at a nearby Whole Foods.
At the church, Maria Macario proudly shows off a workbook of English lessons she takes six days a week with a group of church volunteers via Zoom.
At the foot of an armchair is a large plastic bag stuffed with hats and other accessories she's knitted to donate to charity.
Macario hopes for a green card and her family to be reunited. Her lawyer has filed paperwork to have her asylum case reopened.
But she says she knows better than to put too much hope in a new president.
After all, her family was ordered to leave when Biden was vice president.