/ Modified aug 7, 2015 5:11 a.m.

Immigrant in Sanctuary One Year; When Will It End?

Rosa Robles Loreto has not left the church in 365 days, will stay until deportation order closes

RosaRoblesLoretoOneYear spotlight Rosa Robles Loreto with her youngest son in the room at the church where she has lived for a year.
Fernanda Echavarri, AZPM

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A year ago Friday Rosa Robles Loreto was given sanctuary at a Tucson church to avoid deportation to Mexico.

Her case is the longest running in the U.S. since the revival of the sanctuary movement last year.

“It has been a year of separation and a year of fighting,” Robles Loreto said. “And I’m going to continue fighting.”

In the 1980s the Southside Presbyterian Church gave refuge to Central American migrants fleeing civil wars. It was at the same church decades later that the sanctuary movement surfaced again.

In May of 2014 a Mexican man was given sanctuary to protect him from deportation. Daniel Neyoy Ruiz spent a month in sanctuary before Immigration and Customs Enforcement gave him a one-year stay permit.

ICE policy directs officers to not actively seek to deport those inside “sensitive locations” such as churches unless it involves a “dangerous felon” or “a national security or terrorism matter,” the agency’s documents showed.

Robles Loreto moved into the Southside Presbyterian on Aug. 7, 2014 and has not left church grounds since.

Although her sons and husband visit after school and on weekends, Robles Loreto said not living with them and seeing them every day has been tough. She often cooks in the church's kitchen and sends food home to her family.

One of the most difficult things has been missing her sons' baseball games, she said.

The 42-year-old Mexican immigrant received a deportation order shortly before going into sanctuary. She has been in the U.S. for about 15 years and her undocumented status surfaced during a routine traffic stop a couple years ago.

Robles Loreto’s lawyer Margo Cowan has said because of Robles Loreto’s lack of criminal record ICE should follow the president’s executive order on immigration and close her case because it is not a priority.

“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement continues to exercise prosecutorial discretion in the matter of Ms. Robles Loreto’s immigration case by not taking action to enforce her removal order at this time,” ICE said in a statement.

Across town there are about 10,000 yard signs that have a photo of the family and the words We Stand With Rosa.

“Tucson is this beautiful light in the midst of the darkness of our state that has continuously upheld the sanctity of families the sanctity of the community and the dignity of each and every person,” said Alison Harrington, pastor at Southside Presbyterian.

Robles Loreto is one of nine people given sanctuary since May 2014. Three people including Robles Loreto are currently living at churches to avoid deportation.

Robles Loreto said although it has been difficult she will continue to live in sanctuary until her deportation order is removed.

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