This article by Denise Holley appears in our fall newsletter.
In the noontime heat outside the downtown library, a pastor and government leaders shouted their support for an undocumented Tucson mother. They called on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to close her deportation case and allow her to live in peace with her family.
More than 100 people gathered August 7 to mark one year since Rosa Robles Loreto entered into sanctuary at Southside Presbyterian Church.
“I believe God stands with Rosa,” declared the Rev. Alison Harrington, the Southside pastor. She asked President Obama, DHS and ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), “Where do you stand?”
County Supervisor Richard Elias said, “Rosa’s case is low-priority, yet she has faced incarceration in a private prison.”
The guest of honor couldn’t see the long half-circle of signs with her family’s picture that read, “We Stand With Rosa,” nor hear the words of support and applause. For her safety, she had to remain inside the gates of the church.
Robles Loreto, a native of Hermosillo, Mexico, has lived in Tucson since 1999, she said. She and her husband work and are raising two sons, ages 9 and 12. Her legal troubles began with a minor traffic violation in 2010, and led to a deportation order for August 8, 2014. The day before, she sought protection at Southside, a church that offered sanctuary for Central American refugees in the 1980s.
Keep Tucson Together created “We Stand with Rosa” signs to drum up publicity and support in Tucson neighborhoods. NMD voted last March to donate $5,000 to make more signs.
Although ICE has said Robles Loreto is a low priority for deportation, the agency has refused to close her case.
Her case has run its course in local courts, said Margo Cowan, Robles Loreto’s current attorney. “This is a case of national importance.”
Another immigrant who took sanctuary at Southside in spring 2014 fared better. Daniel Neyoy Ruiz was granted a one-year stay of deportation after five weeks at the church with his wife and son. When the stay expired in June this year, he briefly entered sanctuary at another church. Then ICE granted him another one-year reprieve.
“Daniel has a US-citizen child and Rosa doesn’t,” Cowan said.
Keep Tucson Together, a No More Deaths affiliate that works to stop deportations, hosted the press conference. The group created “We Stand with Rosa” signs to drum up publicity and support in Tucson neighborhoods. NMD voted last March to donate $5,000 to make more signs.
KTT launched a push to finish posting nearly 10,000 signs at homes during a “25 Days for Rosa” campaign. It began July 13, Robles Loreto’s birthday, and culminated on August 7, her one-year anniversary living in sanctuary.
“Thanks to the sanctuary movement, more families have come out from the shadows.”—Rosa Robles Loreto
While she misses her home and her sons’ baseball games, Robles Loreto has immersed herself in the life of Southside Presbyterian. She is grateful for the love and support she receives from members and from Keep Tucson Together.
“I fell into the hands of a blessed group,” Robles Loreto said about KTT.
Immigrants don’t come to the United States to take away any rights from citizens, she asserted. “We only come seeking opportunities.”
Because of a minor traffic infraction, Robles Loreto fears she may lose her opportunity to one day manage her own housecleaning company.
She never sought publicity, but realizes she is a symbol, said Robles Loreto, whose story and photo have appeared in newspapers and television reports.
“With my voice and my experience, I want to serve other families who have experienced the same thing, because we are millions,” Robles Loreto said. “Thanks to the sanctuary movement, more families have come out from the shadows.”
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Featured photo: Jose Emiliano (left), son of Rosa Robles Loreto, and her husband, Gerardo Grijalva, distribute “We Stand with Rosa” signs in late July in the neighborhood around Southside Presbyterian Church. Ministry intern Elizabeth Welliver (right) accompanies the family members to ask residents if they would display a sign in their yard.