Central American Immigrants Find Refuge at Arizona Church

This Sept. 4, 2014 photo shows Rosa Robles Loreta sitting at the Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson, Ariz. Robles Loreto, a Mexican immigrant who is facing deportation, has moved into the church where she is taking sanctuary. (AP Photo/Astrid Galvan)
This Sept. 4, 2014 photo shows Rosa Robles Loreta sitting at the Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson, Ariz. Robles Loreto, a Mexican immigrant who is facing deportation, has moved into the church where she is taking sanctuary. (AP Photo/Astrid Galvan)

Back in the 1980s, when large numbers Central Americans were fleeing civil wars in their home countries, the Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson became a pioneer for offering the refugees sanctuary, letting them live inside churches, where immigration officials generally do not arrest people.

Seems like old times at Southside Presbyterian and other churches in Arizona, but instead of civil wars, it’s street gangs, corruption and poverty that are causing people in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to come north, looking for a better life.

Rosa Robles Loreto is one of those migrants. On her 27th day of living in a tiny room in Southside Presbyterian, Robles Loreto swept a courtyard, prayed with a group of parishioners and greeted her uniformed son fresh off his baseball practice.

Robles Loreto is a 41-year-old immigrant who lacks legal status and is facing deportation after getting pulled over for a traffic infraction four years ago. She has vowed to remain in Southside Presbyterian until federal immigration authorities grant her leniency.

Robles Loreto is the third immigrant to take sanctuary in a church this year in Arizona.

National immigration advocates say the movement is about to grow, propelled by activists hoping the sanctuary movement will draw attention to the lack of immigration reform. The Rev. Noel Andersen, a national grassroots coordinator for Church World Service, said cities such as Denver, Portland, New York and Washington D.C., are organizing and preparing for the potential of more migrants taking sanctuary in churches.

“I would say there’s close to 300 congregations out there throughout the country that are willing and ready to give sanctuary when needed,” Andersen said.

Daniel Neyoy Ruiz spent 21 days at the same church where Robles Loreto is currently residing before authorities relented and granted him a one-year reprieve from deportation. Luis Lopez-Acabal on Thursday moved into a church in Tempe, Arizona, also hoping to avoid deportation.

The immigrants spend every hour of every day confined to the church for fear of deportation. Congregation members make it a point to visit throughout the day, deliver food and flowers and host prayer vigils.

Robles Loreto’s two young sons stay with her on weekends. During the week, she wakes up around 5 a.m. to prepare her husband’s lunch, goes back to sleep, and awakes again by 7:30 a.m. She helps clean the church. Southside officials make sure there is someone at the church at all hours to ensure Robles Loreto is safe.

Southside Presbyterian’s leader said she sees providing sanctuary to Robles Loreto as a moral imperative.

“They’re perfect examples of the families that are being needlessly torn apart every single day … We felt compelled by our faith to welcome them into our church and shelter them and to begin a campaign to get their orders of deportation removed,” said the Rev. Alison J. Harrington, who heads Southside Presbyterian.

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SOURCE: FOX News Latino

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