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Arizona man turns to local church to provide sanctuary amidst deportation proceedings

Posted by Matthew Green | Jun 17, 2014 | 0 Comments

Amidst all the broad discussion about immigration reform, there are individual people facing real situations each and every day. It's these kinds of circumstances that remind us that there needs to be a solution to immigration reform soon. This is one of those situations. As reported by Arizona Public Media, Daniel Neyoy Ruiz, 36, went to a local Tucson church to find safety while he awaits a decision on his immigration status.

Neyoy Ruiz is a Mexican immigrant who came to the United States approximately 15 years ago without documentation. Since then, he has led a normal life and has kept a pretty low profile. He works as a maintenance supervisor at a townhouse complex in Tucson and does not have a criminal background.

However, in 2011, Neyoy Ruiz was detained by local police during a traffic stop after the officer observed smoke coming from the back of Neyoy Ruiz's car. The officer notified Border Patrol. Once Border Patrol arrived at the scene, it was discovered that Neyoy Ruiz was an undocumented immigrant and he was then taken to a detention center. He was in custody at the center for a month.

Over the next three years, Neyoy Ruiz has continued to work and live in Tucson, while he waits to hear about potential deportation. “At night I would wonder, what is going to happen to me? … What's going to happen to my family if I'm deported?” he said. “I provide for my wife and teenage son.” That changed about one month ago when Neyoy Ruiz received a letter notifying him and his family that he was being given 30 days to appear at the immigration office in Tucson for voluntary deportation.

Instead of turning himself in, he decided to go to Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson and stay there until he hears from ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) about his removal proceedings. This is the same church where the sanctuary movement was born in the 1980s. “My wife, my son and I are going to stay in a room at the church until something is decided because I'm not going to give up so easily,” Neyoy Ruiz said.

As Neyoy Ruiz and his family were approaching the church, they were greeted by approximately 50 people cheering them on. This is the first time in 30 years that a family has gone to the church for sanctuary. Upon their arrival, there was a press conference and a religious ceremony that included church personnel from a variety of denominations.

Margo Cowan, an immigration lawyer, stated that this case should have been reviewed and given prosecutorial discretion a long time ago. Neyoy Ruiz is an ideal candidate for this discretion and should not be deported. “The fact that his case has progressed to the point where he is being ordered to remove himself from the U.S. clearly demonstrates that the cracks in the system are vast and that far too many families and communities are left to feel the pain and suffering caused by deportation,” Cowan said.

Update: Neyoy Ruiz has been granted a one-year stay of his deportation order.

About the Author

Matthew Green

Managing Partner. Green | Evans-Schroeder (formerly Law Offices of Matthew H. Green) focuses on the aggressive defense of immigrants. A native of Arizona, Mr. Green understands the difficulties that immigrants and families of immigrants face when a loved one is charged with a crime. He knows how frightening it can be for some...


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