Rosa Robles leaves sanctuary for new life without fear

A press conference exploded into a celebration November 11 at Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson, as Rosa Robles Loreto and her family entered the sanctuary. Cameras clicked and flashed while parishioners and supporters applauded and chanted “Rosa! Rosa!” Beaming boys in baseball uniforms, members of Rosa’s son José Emiliano’s team, followed the family into the crowded room.

“Today is only a beginning … We don’t stop until nobody in America has to live in fear.”—Margo Cowan

For the past 15 months, Rosa lived in a small room at the church, which offered her sanctuary from an impending deportation order. Keep Tucson Together, an affiliate of No More Deaths, waged a campaign to publicize her case and distributed 9,600 signs that read “We Stand With Rosa” to residents and businesses all over the city.

After months of negotiations with the Department of Homeland Security, Rosa’s attorney, Margo Cowan, announced a confidential agreement to allow Rosa to live without fear of deportation. “I can’t talk about it,” Cowan told the audience. “But … she’s fine, she’s protected.

A few weeks earlier, Cowan represented Rosa’s husband, Gerardo Grijalva, in court and successfully closed his deportation case.

“One more Tucson family is going home,” Cowan said as people cheered and applauded. “It’s really important to understand why. Look around you.

Cowan gestured to public officials who had passed resolutions to support Rosa and members of Congress who advocated for her, and thanked everyone who posted signs.

“Rosa, this lady, is every mom,” Cowan said. “This guy (Gerardo) is every dad. They’re us. When we have our (legal) clinics here at Southside, we call it Keep Tucson Together.

Rosa Robles speaks to press. Photo: Denise Holley.
Rosa Robles speaks to press. Photo: Denise Holley.

Rosa’s experience has inspired undocumented families across the nation, Cowan said. They say, “We’re not leaving … because there’s this lady in a church in Tucson and we’re going to follow her witness.

Rosa spent 462 days in sanctuary, said the Reverend Alison Harrington, Southside’s pastor. “We want to surround her with all the love and protection all undocumented families deserve.

Finally, Rosa took the microphone. “First of all, I want to thank God for this great struggle and experience because without the faith I have in Him and the strength from your prayers, we would not have arrived at this day,” she said.

Then Rosa poured out her gratitude to Cowan, Sarah Launius and Keep Tucson Together, all the Southside members who accompanied her day and night, and especially to Harrington.

“Besides being a pastor, she is a mother and as a mother, I know what this struggle meant to her,” Rosa said.

To people from different churches who came to prayer vigils, to members of Congress and Bishop Gerald Kicanas who visited her, and laborers from the Southside Workers Center, “Thank you, thank you, from my heart,” Rosa said.

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Cowan emphasized that “today is only a beginning … We don’t stop until nobody in America has to live in fear.

As Rosa’s family prepared to go outside, Harrington asked, “If you have a Rosa sign in your yard, don’t take it down.” Decorate it with balloons and flowers in honor of “the many Rosas in our community,” she said.

Text: Denise Holley.