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Seeking Deportation Refuge In Arizona Churches

Posted by Matthew Green | Sep 12, 2014 | 0 Comments

In June, Daniel Ruiz took sanctuary in Tucson's Southside Presbyterian Church for 26 days, before Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials granted him a one-year stay of removal.  Now, another undocumented immigrant is looking to the church for relief from pending deportation.  Since August 7th, Rosa Robles Loreto has moved into the Southside Presbyterian Church, and intends to remain there until her deportation order is removed.

Robles Loreto has lived in the United States for 15 years, married with two children, with a house and a job. She was one day away from being deported when she decided to move into the church, in a small room that also serves as a storage closet.

According to her attorney, Margo Cowan, ICE says it will not deport Robles, but they would not make it formal by issuing a stay of removal.  Even though they said they would not report her, they denied her application for a stay.  Cowan says she has to be able to walk out of the church with some kind of protection.

Ms. Robles Loreto says she will not leave without the stay of removal and the documentation that goes with it.  For her, the paper represents “being able to step out of the shadows,” not having to live in the margins, being able to work and go about her life.

After a traffic stop for a minor violation in 2010, Ms. Robles Loreto was identified by ICE officials, and detained by Border Patrol Agents.  She spent 53 days in detention in Eloy, Arizona before she was released on bond.  After years of court hearings, her then-attorney requested that she agree to deportation.  The deportation order was set for August 8th, and she was unable to get the order reversed.

A decision by ICE director John Morton gave authorities discretion in handling some immigration cases, noting some cases did not need to be pursued aggressively.  Robles' attorney believes this is just such a case that need not be pursued at all.  Ms. Cowan has pointed to President Obama's statement indicating that the country should not be deporting people just because we can.  “It's very disappointing that the local administrators for Homeland Security haven't gotten the message and are denying this application,” Cowan said, while at the same time saying, “but we're not going to deport her.”

The Southside Presbyterian Church began the immigrant sanctuary movement in the early 1980s.   Earlier this summer, the church housed Daniel Neyoy Ruiz for three weeks before ICE granted his request for a stay.  Ruiz had lived in Tucson for 14 years, lived with his wife and teenage son, and had no criminal record.  However, after was pulled over for a smoky car exhaust, he was ordered to report to ICE offices for deportation.  Thousands of phone calls, emails and faxes were sent to Homeland Security Secretary Johnson in support of keeping the Ruiz family together. The Southside Presbyterian Church's website has a similar call to action for people to contact the Homeland Security secretary, and ask for Rosa Robles Loreto's deportation to be stopped.

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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