Woman to remain in sanctuary in south side church

Published: Aug. 19, 2014 at 7:39 PM MST|Updated: Sep. 2, 2014 at 7:42 PM MST
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Rosa Robles Loretto and her family
Rosa Robles Loretto and her family

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - A woman who sought sanctuary inside a Tucson church says she has not lost hope that she will be allowed to stay with her family.

That's even though U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, has refused to issue a stay of removal that would protect her from deportation.

Rosa Robles has lived at Southside Presbyterian Church for about two weeks.

Her husband and two sons stay with her occasionally.

Robles is undocumented, and was one day away from being deported when she and her family moved into the small room in the church that also serves as a storage closet.

Robles says her children go to school and that they say this is much better than when she was in the detention facility at Eloy.

Her attorney, Margo Cowan, says ICE says it won't deport Robles, but it also says it won't make that formal by issuing a stay of removal.

Through an interpreter, Robles says the federal decision to deny her a stay of removal is part of the process, part of the struggle to remain in the United States with her family and without fear.

She says she can't do that without the stay of removal and the document that goes with it.

"Essentially being able to step out of the shadows. That's what this paper represents to me--this ability to be free from fear, to not have to live in the shadows, not have to live in the margins, to be able to go about my life, be able to go to work," Robles says.

Her attorney explains further.

"They said 'We're not going to deport her, but we're going to deny her application for a stay.' And we say, thank you for saying that you won't deport her, but if you're not going to deport her, then you have to approve the stay because she has to be able to walk out of the church with some kind of protection," Cowan says.

"We know that sooner or later the United States will approve this stay. Why they took the position yesterday that they took, denying it but saying, 'But look, we're not going to deport her,' doesn't make much sense," Cowan says. "And you know, really, it's quite disappointing because when our president says very clearly that we shouldn't be deporting people just because we can. Rosa Robles is one of those people. And so it's very disappointing that the local administrators for Homeland Security haven't got the message and are denying this application, but then out of the other side of their mouths, saying, 'but we're not going to deport her.' That's not acceptable."

"She can't leave the church, go back to her family and resume her life until she knows that she's got a paper that she carries with her that says 'I'm not a priority.' And that's what we're asking Homeland Security to do, to stand by the president's word and approve the stay," Cowan continues.

ICE is under the Department of Homeland Security.

Cowan says she expects pressure from the community will lead to ICE issuing the stay of removal.

Cowan says it has happened before in Tucson, and very recently.

That case involved Daniel Ruiz who took sanctuary in Southside Presbyterian Church for 21 days, leaving in June when immigration authorities granted him a one-year stay of removal.

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