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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Column: Church acts where President Obama won’t

    President Barack Obama postponed his promise to take executive immigration action and Congress, well, you know the story. It can’t pass anything, let alone immigration reform. If the president and Congress don’t take action communities across the nation will — by resorting to civil disobedience.

    Faced with a deportation order, Rosa Robles Loreto entered into sanctuary at Southside Presbyterian Church on Aug. 7 because she refused to be separated from her husband and two kids. She and her family came from Mexico in 1999 and overstayed their visas. In 2010, police handed her over to U.S. Border Patrol after a routine traffic stop. She served almost two months in detention. While out on bail following that incident, she received her deportation order.

    The good news is that, after community pressure, Immigration and Customs Enforcement is not taking her into custody. Robles Loreto “should have received prosecutorial discretion long ago,” her lawyer, Margo Cowan, told Arizona Public Media.

    The bad news is that ICE hasn’t removed her deportation order. This means that she is still at risk and will remain at Southside Presbyterian. Outside of ICE’s Tucson office last Thursday, Cowan asked ICE to reconsider giving her a stay of removal. Robles Loreto has a lot of people on her side who will accept nothing less.

    And there is hope. In June, ICE removed Daniel Neyoy Ruiz’s deportation order after about a month of sanctuary at the same church. Robles Loreto has been there for over a month.

    The sanctuary movement is gaining momentum in Tucson. On Sept. 2, the Pima County Supervisors supported a resolution calling for Robles Loreto’s deportation case to be closed. More communities across the country are protecting their citizens from deportation.

    “I would say there’s close to 300 congregations out there throughout the country that are willing and ready to give sanctuary when needed,” Rev. Noel Andersen of Church World Service told Fox News Latino.

    In the `80s, Southside Presbyterian, led by pastor John Fife, began the first immigration sanctuary movement, modeling it after the Underground Railroad. Eventually, churches from across the country participated. They provided hospitality for Central American migrants fleeing from violent civil wars that the U.S. government had a hand in. They demanded that the government acknowledge the migrants as refugees. Now the Southside congregation is again filling in “the gap” left by government inaction.

    “When elected officials don’t act, churches historically have stood up to stand in the gap,” Rev. Alison Harrington of Southside Presbyterian said. Her church is no stranger to immigration issues.

    Robles Loreto’s legal support shows no sign of giving up.

    “I am confident that it’s going to work out,” Cowan said. If the government doesn’t act, communities will support undocumented families to say, “We have earned the right to be here and we’re not leaving.”

    This month, there might be a couple of sanctuary cases, but next month there could be 40, Robles Loreto said.

    Obama should deliver his executive action promise and Congress needs to pass compassionate, comprehensive immigration reform. If they don’t, communities are going to act without them regardless of the law.

    “The people want a solution,” Robles Loreto said.

    — Alex Devoid is a graduate student studying journalism and Latin American studies. Follow him @DeviodAlex

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