Immigrant Refuses to Leave Church without Guarantee of Safety

While Rosa Robles Loreto could leave the small, Tucson church where she has taken shelter for the last year, there is no guarantee she would not be deported to Mexico. It’s for this reason that she has decided to stay put. This means she is only able to see her family when they visit the church.

There are two other immigrant women like Rosa in similar situations. Both women remain in churches for fear of returning to their home countries for different reasons.

Unlike other immigrants, Rosa doesn’t have family in her home country. In fact, her entire family is living in the U.S. illegally. They, like many illegal immigrants, are hoping to be granted leniency as part of President Barack Obama’s policy to keep families together.

Her case began five years ago after she was pulled over for a traffic infraction. The church became her home on August 7, 2014.

While there is no rule that strictly prohibits agents from arresting immigrants in church, it’s a practice the government tries to avoid. Rosa’s family has not been arrested or turned over to immigration authorities. Thus, they do not face deportation.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Mrs. Loreto is no longer a priority with regard to deportation. However, her attorney, Margo Cowan, suggests Rosa cannot be certain of her safety.

“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) continues to exercise prosecutorial discretion in the matter of Ms. Robles Loreto’s immigration case by not taking action to enforce her removal order,” spokeswoman Yasmeen Pitts O’Keefe said in a written statement.

Southside Presbyterian began offering sanctuary to immigrants in the 1980s following civil wars in Central America that caused thousands to flee their homes.

“I hope to see a day soon, when Rosa can leave this church and know that she will see her children grow to adulthood in their home in Tucson,” The Rev. Alison Harrington said.

Source: Galvan, Astrid, “Immigrant stays in Arizona church for a year, refuses to leave until her case is closed,” Star Tribune, August 8, 2015

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