Illegal immigrant avoids deportation, claims sanctuary in southside church

Published: May. 14, 2014 at 3:49 AM MST|Updated: Feb. 28, 2018 at 5:16 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - An illegal immigrant who lives in Tucson hopes to avoid deportation by taking sanctuary in Southside Presbyterian Church. But can he really hide from the law behind church doors?

Daniel Ruiz has made Tucson his home for the last 14 years. He says he has major ties to the community. His family hoped Ruiz would be cleared to stay in the U.S. under new deportation guidelines.

Ruiz and his family walked into the church just after 5 p.m. on Tuesday. This was the deadline set by a judge who ordered Ruiz to report to immigration officials for self deportation.

He was met with dozens of supporters. His family accepted their prayers hoping the federal government will close his case and let him stay.

Carlos Neyoy, his 13-year-old son, said his father is excited for the hope and support from everybody at the church.

Ruiz came to the U.S. with his wife when they were in their 20's looking for work. He said it was a traffic stop that led to his status being questioned which got him a deportation ruling.

"I'm really scared because without my dad I think the family would fall apart," said Neyoy.

Pastor Allison Harrington said the church hasn't given someone sanctuary since the 1980's. She said Daniel can live here with his family for as long as he needs.

"We think he's very safe. There  hasn't been very many cases of immigration officials entering onto church property to get someone. So we feel that he is safe here," Harrington said.

In the meantime, Ruiz's family said he hopes God hears all the prayers at the church tonight.

"I kind of have hope that God will let my dad live here," said Neyoy.

We reached out to Immigration Custom and Enforcement officials seeking information on any policy that deals with church sanctuaries. But they have not returned calls or e-mail.

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