Immigrant given sanctuary in Tucson church granted stay by feds
'We started crying, out of happiness that this was done'
After nearly a month in sanctuary at a South Side Tucson church, Daniel Neyoy Ruiz was granted a stay in his deportation case Monday.
Neyoy Ruiz, his wife Karla, and their 13-year old son have been living at Southside Presbyterian Church since May 13, when a removal order issued by Immigrations and Custom Enforcement went into effect.
For Neyoy Ruiz, the stay is a welcome relief.
"I started crying," he said in Spanish on Monday. "We started crying, out of happiness that this was done."
According to Sarah Launius, a spokeswoman with the activist group No More Deaths who works closely with the church's legal clinic, federal officials sent the stay to the family's lawyer, Margo Cowan, late Monday afternoon.
"This is a great victory for the Tucson community and for the Neyoy Ruiz family," Cowan said in a written statement. "ICE’s decision to grant a stay of removal in Daniel’s case is an example of what should happen in all such cases. Daniel’s case is not exceptional and the fact that he was never granted prosecutorial discretion and then later denied a stay of removal should be reviewed by immigration officials."
The stay is for one year, which may be renewed by immigration officials, and includes a work permit. Immigration officials pinned their response on the May 14 request that Neyoy Ruiz be allowed to stay in the country through the agency's discretion.
Federal officials did not respond Monday to a request for comment on the case.
With the protracted legal battle behind him, if only for a year, Neyoy Ruiz wants to return to his former life. He's excited to go home where he can see his dogs and "do what he needs to do" to put his life together and enjoy his new freedom, he said.
He's hoping to get his job back as a maintenance supervisor at a townhouse complex in Tucson and he wants to go on a trip with his wife and son soon.
The trouble for the 36-year-old Neyoy Ruiz began in 2011 when a police officer pulled him over because his car's exhaust was smoking. A subsequent investigation revealed that Neyoy Ruiz was living in the country illegally.
Neyoy Ruiz and his wife Karla came to the United States in 2000 and their son was born in the United States.
A previous immigration attorney had worked on the case and successfully defended Neyoy Ruiz from deportation, but in the end, the lawyer did not ask for the case to be closed. In March, the family received a letter giving Neyoy Ruiz 60 days to leave the country or face deportation.
Owing to letters from Cowan and public pressure, ICE responded to the family on May 15 saying they would not "take immediate action" on the removal order, however, the family remained in sanctuary at the church, 317 W. 23rd St., until Monday evening.
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.