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Rosa Robles Loreto leaves sanctuary of Tucson church after 461 days

Surrounded by a packed house of supporters and reporters in a Tucson chapel, Rosa Imelda Robles Loreto thanked her family, her lawyer, and advocates for helping her endure 461 days of sanctuary as she avoided deportation at Southside Presbyterian Church.

On Wednesday, Margo Cowan, the family's attorney, told the audience that a deal had been struck with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials. 

"It's a confidential deal," Cowan said. "You couldn't torture the details out of me, however I can say as Rosa's lawyer, she's safe."

Outside the church, Robles Loreto held roses given to her by supporters and hugged her husband, while her sons Jose Emiliano Grijalva, 9, and Gerardo Grijalva Jr., 12, ate lunch with supporters and members of the Warriors baseball team. 

"I'm just amazed and excited, I just don't know what to do," Robles Loreto said. She hopes to return to a life that's been on pause for more than a year, she said. And she's excited to watch her sons play baseball again, and return to mass at Santa Monica Parish. 

In the next few weeks, she plans to walk from her home to San Xavier Mission and back, hiking part of the migrant trail. 

"The struggle continues," she said.

Cowan said that the resolution came because of the advocacy of supporters, including a press of letters, emails and phone calls to officials with Homeland Security and ICE's Phoenix office, along with visits by U.S. Reps. Raúl Grijalva and Luis Gutierrez, as well as former Rep. Ron Barber, and civil rights leader Dolores Huerta. 

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Cowan also noted the efforts made by Tucson City Council members, Pima County Board of Supervisors, and members of the school board at Tucson Unified and Sunnyside school districts. 

In July, supporters launched the "25 Days for Rosa" campaign, distributing about 9,500 signs throughout 11 Tucson neighborhoods, displaying the words "We Stand with Rosa" and an image of her and family.

Over 15 months, the advocacy appeared to be losing ground, as Robles Loreto waited for immigration officials to agree to stay her deportation order. 

But late last week, Cowan and officials with ICE struck a deal that will allow Robles Loreto to stay in the country through at least the next year. Or until comprehensive immigration reform is finally enacted, Cowan said. 

"There is no doubt in mind that the amazing courage of Rosa and the steadfast support from thousands of Tucsonans have brought us to a resolution that ensures Rosa will be safe outside of the walls of Southside Presbyterian Church," Cowan said.

Until this week, ICE officials had said that the agency was exercising prosecutorial discretion by "not taking immediate action" on her expired removal order despite a "thorough review" of the case.

In a written statement, ICE spokeswoman Yasmeen Pitts O'Keefe reiterated that the agency would not come to the church and arrest Robles Loreto, following a 2011 memo from then-director John Morton that the agency should not enter "sensitive" locations to arrest immigrants, including churches.

However, without a stay of deportation or other administrative fix, Robles Loreto would have been vulnerable to deportation if she was pulled over in the kind of ordinary traffic stop that led to her arrest and detention by U.S. Border Patrol agents in 2010.

"It's not enough for them to say they won't come get her," Cowan said in August. "We need some acknowledgement, some piece of paper that says she cannot be deported by authorities. We ask the White House and President Obama to make this happen so that Rosa can stay with her family."

The church pastor, Rev. Allison Harrington called the resolution a "victorious moment." 

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"We'll be quick because we don't want to keep Rosa here any longer," Harrington said. She called Robles Loreto, a courage woman and said that while this case had come to a close, the church would continue to promote advocacy for undocumented immigrants. 

"Courge is fear that has said its prayers," Harrington said. "We will continue to have courage and stand beside immigrant communities until people can do the everyday things that we take for granted without fear of being torn from their families." 

"This is joyous moment and we should all be proud of our little piece of the puzzle, but today's only the beginning," Cowan said. "We don't stop. Until no one in America has to live in fear." 

Robles Loreto was one of more than a dozen people who took refuge with churches nationwide, following Daniel Neyoy Ruiz, 37, who went into sanctuary in May 2014. She was followed by Francisco Cordova in December. 

Unlike Robles Loreto, both men received stays of deportation. In May, Ruiz's stay was renewed for another year. 

The decision to leave follows a decision by a three-judge panel with the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans to leave in place an injunction that will keep two deferred actions programs announced by the White House from going forward as part of a lawsuit led by Texas and joined by Arizona and 24 other states. 

On Tuesday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said that Justice Department lawyers would appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, arguing that delaying the expansion of deferred action for children and parents "results in more families being torn apart." 

Grijalva called the court's decision "the politicization of justice." 

"The Fifth Circuit delayed its 2-1 decision as long as possible to deny the Supreme Court time to undo it. In sports that’s called running out the clock – in this case, it’s prolonging the agony of countless families suffering in our broken immigration system," Grijalva said. 

Grijlava urged the justices to "act swiftly and justly to protect the men, women and children that are counting on them."

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have your say   

2 comments on this story

Nov 11, 2015, 10:14 am
-0 +0

So much for ling in the shadows

Nov 11, 2015, 9:08 am
-0 +0

There is no “running out the clock” in an active court case.  The Fifth District is not “running out the clock” nor will their action prevent the Supreme Court from being able to review their actions.  *EVER*

The truth is that the current administration (and their (D) supporters) really really wishes hard with fingers crossed that the Fifth District really really quickly quickly renders a decision ... so that if it’s not the way they want, they can appeal it to the Supreme Court while the current administration is in office.  There’s not due process here.  They just want it to go their way, and if not, give us that “no” quickly so we can go above your head while we’re still in charge.

On topic: Christian churches are sanctuaries from US Federal Law?  Which denominations qualify?  Did someone not realize that either this is a violation of the church/state separation or the equal protection clause?  After all, if someone shoots an FBI agent and goes into a church they won’t be given “sanctuary” by the government…

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Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.com

Rosa Robles Loreto with her family and attorney, as supporters held a prayer meeting as she left Southside Presbyterian Church, where she took refuge from a deportation order 461 days ago.