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Southside Presbyterian set to offer sanctuary to Mexican woman

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Southside Presbyterian set to offer sanctuary to Mexican woman

  • courtesy Southside Presbyterian

Unless her deportation order is delayed or canceled by immigration officials by Friday, a Tucson resident will take sanctuary at Southside Presbyterian Church.

Rosa Imelda Robles Loreto was offered sanctuary Monday by church members, said Sarah Launius, a spokeswoman with the activist group No More Deaths, who works closely with the church's legal clinic.

A Mexican national, Loreto was detained by immigration officials after a Fall 2010 stop by Pima County Sheriff's deputies led to her arrest by U.S. Border Patrol.

Her husband, Gerardo, had his own trouble with immigration in a separate incident. However, because he was not a priority for removal, his case was closed, said attorney Margo Cowan.

"Rosa is facing deportation on Friday even though she meets the administration's criteria as a low-priority case," said Cowan. "As we wait for the president to act, lives like Rosa's hang in the balance."

Cowan has asked officials with U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement to close the case and allow Rosa Loreto to stay in the United States with her husband and sons, ages 8 and 11. 

While the entire family was born in Mexico, they fear going back, said Rev. Alison Harrington, the church's pastor.

"The reality is, if they go back they could be subjected to violence because they've lived in the United States for so long," she said.

For this reason, the church decided to offer sanctuary to the entire family during a meeting held after worship on Sunday.

"The U.S. is their country," said Harrington. "They can't go back for the same reasons they came here."

Loreto, who has lived in the United States since 1999, is the second person the church has offered refuge this year.

In May, church members gave sanctuary to Daniel Neyoy Ruiz, who stayed at the church, 317 W. 23rd St., with his wife and son for 26 days until U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement granted the Mexican national a one-year stay in his deportation case.

In such cases, ICE has wide discretion on removal orders based on a 2011 memo issued by former ICE Director John Morton. Immigration officials can consider a person's ties and contributions to the community, as well as criminal history, to make a determination.

Additionally, the memo outlined places that were considered "sensitive" including schools, hospitals and churches where immigration officials would not make arrests unless they had prior approval. The memo outlined some exceptions to this rule, namely national security, pursuit of a felon, destruction of evidence, or possibility that someone could be harmed.

According to the Amber Cargile, a spokeswoman with ICE, the agency is "conducting a comprehensive review of Ms. Robles Loreto’s case to determine appropriate next steps.” 

Nationally, around 90,000 people ICE sought to remove were allowed to stay in the United States, according to data from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a nonpartisan research project supported by Syracuse University.

In Arizona, TRAC projects that around 4,800 people will be granted some form of relief by ICE this year.

With the influx of nearly 58,000 unaccompanied minors along the U.S border, immigration once again became a national issue. However, unlike the last year's moribund effort to pass the comprehensive immigration reform, this year even a request from the White House to add emergency funds for the Department of Homeland Security collapsed before Congress left for their August vacation.

Split along party lines, the House passed a bill offering $694 million for Homeland Security. However, the bill also included a poison pill by blocking the Obama administration from renewing deportation relief from undocumented immigrants widely known as "Dreamers."

In March, President Obama ordered a review of current immigration policy, citing a "deep concern about the pain too many families feel from the separation that comes from our broken immigration system" according to a White House statement.

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