Jamaican Couple Exits Church Basement After Hiding For 843 Days

Clive and Oneita Thompson exited Tabernacle United Church in Philadelphia on Monday (December 21) after spending 843 days in hiding

The couple came to the US from Jamaica 15 years ago, fleeing gang violence, and was forced to go into hiding with two of their seven children after losing an asylum case in August of 2018, according to a report by The Philadelphia Inquirer

Oneita told the news outlet she received a call from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) saying that she and her husband would be deported. Three days later, they went into hiding at the church. 

“All I could think about was my family being torn apart, and that we would be killed if we went back to Jamaica,” Oneita said. The couple said a gang burned down their farm in Jamaica and threatened to kill them.  

They left behind their lives, including their jobs, home, and kids’ school and relied on support from friends during their nearly two and a half years in hiding. 

They sought safety in the church since (ICE) agents cannot act in hospitals, places of worship, and schools.  

They emerged this week after receiving a written notice from ICE a few weeks ago stating that the agency would support the couple’s case to remain in the US. It’s unclear what motivated the notice. 

The Thompsons are currently in the application process to receive permanent residency status. 

Tabernacle’s pastor Rev. Katie Aikins called their departure from hiding, “a little but like a Christmas miracle.” 

“I’m joyful, a joyful moment, with tears. Here we are, walking out of the church. We’re going to go back and live the American dream,” Clive said.

Photo: Getty Images 

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