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City Council asks feds to close sanctuary case

The Tucson City Council has joined a chorus asking immigration officials to close the case against a Tucson woman who has spent 46 days in sanctuary at a South Side church to avoid deportation back to Mexico.

Tuesday night, the Council voted unanimously to send a letter to the White House and Homeland Security Jeh Johnson urging the administration to close the case against Rosa Imelda Robles Loreto, 41, who went into sanctuary at Southside Presbyterian Church on Aug. 8.

Robles Loreto, her husband Gerardo and their two sons, ages 11 and 8, began staying at the church after immigration officials declined to stay a deportation order. Her husband and sons have since returned home, but Robles Loreto continues to stay at the church.

The letter argues that the forced removal of Robles Loreto will tear the family apart and cause "further alienation" among some Tucson residents who "live with the constant fear that one of their family members may be, at any time, forcibly removed."

Robles Loreto is a valued member of the community, the letter said, noting her volunteer work and the fact that family pays taxes and owns a home. 

Nearly two weeks after Robles Loreto went into sanctuary, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials denied her request to have her case closed. And, while the agency wrote that it had not intention of immediately arresting and deporting Robles Loreto back to Mexico that refusal to grant a stay leaves the family in legal limbo.

On Sept. 11, the agency asked Robles Loreto to "check-in" at the local Tucson field office, however, she remained in sanctuary and was represented by faith leaders, church activists and her lawyer, Margo Cowan. 

"Unless she has an order on a person issuing a stay of removal, if some Border Patrol agent were to confront her in a traffic stop, his instructions would be to remove her from the United States," Cowan said. "So, we've asked the United States for a stay of removal."

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Cowan said that the memo from the Council would join nearly 7,000 letters, as well as a similar vote by the Pima County Board of Supervisors, who passed a resolution requesting a halt in the case at the beginning of the month.

"It's hard to understand why Rosa is still in sanctuary," Cowan said. 

Councilwoman Regina Romero supported the memorial and said that she had already sent a letter to Cecila Munoz, the director of the Domestic Policy Council at the White House.

This isn't the first time the City Council has stepped into the immigration fight this year.

In July, city leaders passed a memorial calling for the federal government to stop deportations of people without serious criminal, arguing that the U.S. immigration system was "continuously broken."

Last week, Dolores Huerta, who received the 2011 Medal of Freedom from the President Barack Obama, met with Robles Loreto in the sanctuary of the South Side church and said that she would send would appeal to the president asking him to personally intervene on behalf of Robles Loreto. 

Even as Robles Loreto waits for some form of legal relief, the sanctuary movement in the United States has been reinvigorated.

In Tempe, a 24-year old Guatemalan man, Luis Lopez-Acabal went into sanctuary at the University Presbyterian Church after his deportation order was sent to expire after Sept. 11.

Similar efforts have appeared in Chicago and Denver, where a coalition of churches have begun offering sanctuary.

In a letter read by immigration activist Stephanie Quintana, the pastor of Southside Presbyterian Church, Rev. Alison Harrington, wrote that the expansion of the sanctuary movement counteracted Arizona's reputation as the birthplace of anti-immigrant laws like SB 1070. 

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"Just as SB 1070 spread across our nation, infecting other states with hatred and racism," wrote Harrington, "now sanctuary is spreading like wildflowers, infecting the nation and congregations with solidarity and justice,

After Quintana finished the letter, a dozen people held signs reading "I stand with Rosa."

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2 comments on this story

Sep 25, 2014, 7:32 am
-0 +1

Really Bret..interesting that you aren’t complaining about the 9 Cubans who landed in Florida this week and were granted automatic green cards and all sorts of goodies that are denited to this hard working family that actually embody the work and family ethic that people like you like to brag characterizes our country. I am waiting for people like you to demand that the Cuban Adjustment Act be repealed and the Cubans be sent back

Sep 24, 2014, 6:57 am
-0 +2

The sense of entitlement that the border jumpers and their apologists have is absolutely mind-boggling. I just can not follow the logic of those who knowing came here illegally, and then demand and even expect not to be held accountable for that. Unbelievable.

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Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.com

Members of the audience at a Tucson City Council meeting hold up 'I stand with Rosa' signs in support of Rosa Robles Loreto, a Tucson woman who went in sanctuary at a Tucson church in August.

Tucson memorial on Robles Loreto case

The text of the memorial, passed unanimously Tuesday by the Tucson City Council:



September 23,2014





WHEREAS the Mayor and Council of the City of Tucson, by and through this Memorial, desire to adopt and approve the official position of the City of Tucson with respect to the issues addressed in this Memorial; and

WHEREAS, Rosa Imelda Robles Loreto, her husband, Gerardo , and their two sons, Gerardo and Jose Emiliano, are valued members of our Tucson community; and,

WHEREAS, it has come to our attention that Rosa Robles has been ordered to leave the United States; and,

WHEREAS, the forced removal of Rosa Robles from her family and our community will not serve any legitimate public purpose; and,

WHEREAS, the forced removal of Rosa Robles will cause great, permanent and unnecessary harm and suffering to her two minor children and her husband; and

WHEREAS, the forced removal of Rosa Robles will cause further alienation of a significant portion of our Tucson residents who live with the constant fear that one of their family members may be, at any time, forcibly removed, and that their mother or father may not come home from work at night because they have been forcibly removed; and,

WHEREAS, Rosa Imelda Robles Loreto is active in our Tucson community serving as a volunteer in her two sons' Little League activities, providing transportation for other children to games, supervising youth activities, providing refreshments and support; and,

WHEREAS, Rosa Imelda Robles Loreto and her husband Gerardo have paid taxes for years, own their manufactured home and work hard every day to support their family ; and,

WHEREAS , Rosa Imelda Robles Loreto and her husband and her two sons, Gerardo and Jose Emiliano, should not be torn apart.


SECTION 1. That this Mayor and Council urges President Obama, the United States Congress, and the Department of Homeland Security Secretary, Jeh Johnson, to close Rosa Imelda Robles Loreto's removal case.

SECTION 2. That City staff is hereby authorized and directed to send a copy of this Memorial to President Obama and the United States Congress, to each member of Arizona's Congressional delegation, and to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.

PASSED, ADOPTED, AND APPROVED by the Mayor and Council of the City of Tucson, Arizona, September 23,2014