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Neyoy Ruiz remaining in sanctuary at Tucson church until immigration case closed

An illegal immigrant who sought sanctuary at a South Side church said Thursday that he will remain there until immigration officials close his case. 

Officials announced Thursday that they will "exercise prosecutorial discretion by not taking immediate action" in the case, however, the lack of a resolution in the case leaves Daniel Neyoy Ruiz open to arrest and potential deportation to Mexico. 

While the statement may have come as a relief to those worried that immigration agents might attempt to arrest Neyoy Ruiz at Southside Presbyterian Church, the legal limbo surprised Margo Cowan, an attorney for the family who has been working on the case for the last month. 

"I expected that this case would be closed immediately," said Cowan. She was told that the agency would not accept a request to close the case until his voluntary removal had expired on Tuesday night and that Neyoy Ruiz was not a priority case.

"This leaves Daniel with no protection against arrest," she said, "He could potentially be picked up and be without any legal relief. He could be sent to Mexico." 

A statement from ICE said that, "prior to the expiration of his voluntary departure order, ICE communicated to Mr. Ruiz's attorney that the agency had no immediate plans to take her client into custody."

However, fearing that deportation could come from either U.S. Border Patrol or ICE itself, Neyoy Ruiz, his wife Karla Neyoy, and their 13-year-old son came to Southside Presbyterian, 317 W. 23rd St., on Tuesday night and asked for sanctuary

By doing this, Neyoy Ruiz hoped to be protected from a removal order that could separate the family and send him back to Mexico after 14 years in the United States. 

Although he may be no longer under an imminent threat of deportation, Neyoy Ruiz said that his son, a U.S. citizen, will continue to go to school, but the family will remain at the church  until the situation changes.

"I'm going to wait here until we get what we need," said Neyoy Ruiz, adding that he appreciated the church's hospitality. The situation, he said was tough on his son, but "he's ready for what might come next."

Regulations in force since 2011 and passed into law by Congress last year require border and immigration agents to seek approval before conducting enforcement actions at "sensitive locations" such as schools, hospitals and churches.

ICE officials indicated Thursday that the case is not closed. "By failing to depart within the time allotted under the terms of his voluntary departure order, Mr. Ruiz's voluntary departure order has automatically converted to a final order of removal," a statement from the agency said.

The 36-year-old Neyoy Ruiz's problems began in 2011, when he was pulled over on Interstate 19 for a smoking tailpipe. Unable to provide identification, Neyoy Ruiz was arrested and handed over to Border Patrol. 

An immigration lawyer fought the case for years but failed to ask immigration officials to use their discretion to close the case. An order for his removal was given and Neyoy Ruiz sought help from Cowan, the church's legal clinic and immigration lawyer. 

Cowan said Thursday she had not received a formal communication from immigration officials regarding the case. 

Earlier, Cowan had submitted a letter to immigration officials and asked them to close the case. To her, the case is a "slam dunk." 

"Daniel’s case should have received prosecutorial discretion long ago. According to the Obama administration, he is an ideal candidate for administrative closure," she said Wednesday. 

"The president has made it very clear that we should not be pulling families apart," said Cowan. 

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2 comments on this story

May 16, 2014, 8:52 am
-1 +7

I’m still not clear as to why he shouldn’t be deported. He knowingly broke the law by illegally entering the country. Why is it that anyone thinks we owe him anything, or that he is entitled to be here in any way? Seriously, I’d like someone to explain this to me because I’m just not getting it, and I have a sincere desire to understand the other side of the story.

May 15, 2014, 11:30 am
-1 +7

He went through the process, he went through hearings that he didn’t miss and they determined he was to report for deportation.  REPORT FOR DEPORTATION!

They know where he is.  Enter the church!

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Paul M. Ingram/TucsonSentinel.com

Daniel Neyoy Ruiz waits for a response from immigration officials Wednesday at the Southside Presbyterian Church where he sought sanctuary from am order to leave the country.