Undocumented Mexican migrant eyes sanctuary in Arizona church

Reuters News

8/7/2014 3:08:33 PM - Reuters News

By Brad Poole

TUCSON Ariz. (Reuters) - An undocumented immigrant from Mexico will take refuge on Thursday in an Arizona church that offered her sanctuary, unless the federal government offers her a chance to stay in the United States, her attorney said.

Rosa Imelda Robles Loreto is due to be deported on Friday. On Wednesday she applied for a stay that would allow her to remain in the country temporarily, said Margot Cowan, a local immigration attorney who is helping her.

The longtime Tucson resident was identified by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials after a traffic stop, detained by Border Patrol agents and later released, Cowan said.

Loreto attended a legal clinic offered at the city's Southside Presbyterian Church, which has a long history of sheltering Central American refugees.

She then appealed the deportation order, arguing that she has deep ties to the United States including two children, a husband, a job and a home she owns.

Loreto, who has lived in Tucson since 1999, asked the church for help after ICE rejected her appeal.

The church said it offered sanctuary to Loreto because she is a good example of a category of undocumented immigrant made a low priority in 2011 by then-ICE Director John Morton.

In a memo, Morton offered guidance in the use of "prosecutorial discretion" and listed attributes including long-standing community ties, being a caretaker of minors, and lack of criminal history, that make a case a low priority.

ICE has said it is conducting a comprehensive review of Loreto's case "to determine appropriate next steps."

Cowan says she has averted more than 100 deportations by helping immigrants convince ICE they are low priority cases.

Southside averted another immigrant's deportation in June. Daniel Neyoy Ruiz, 36, spent 26 days in sanctuary before ICE granted him a one-year reprieve, after which Ruiz will have to report back to the agency, Pastor Alison Harrington said. 

ICE could administratively close Loreto's case immediately, or they could issue a stay, giving give her a year to make a case for permanent residency, or it could move forward with the deportation order, Cowan said.

If Loreto moves into the church it becomes a stalemate, because ICE policy forbids arrests in sensitive areas unless there is a threat to public safety or national security.

"Then it becomes a political campaign," Cowan said. "We've made it clear we don't want to go there."

(Reporting by Brad Poole; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Sandra Maler)