About 80 supporters of Rosa Sabido, who has been living for the past 1,000 days in sanctuary at the United Methodist Church in Mancos, gathered for a vigil Thursday in front of U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton’s Durango office.
The supporters also delivered a petition organized by Rosa Belongs Here and signed by 2,750 people asking Tipton, R-Cortez, to introduce a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives that would provide a legal path for Sabido to stay in the country.
“It is the only legal option that exists to allow her to remain in the country legally,” Sabido’s lawyer, Jennifer Kain-Rios, told the crowd.
Sabido, a longtime Cortez resident who entered the country illegally with her family 32 years ago, had established a productive and lawful life in Cortez for 30 years before any effort was made to deport her, Kain-Rios said.
Kain-Rios said she had successfully applied for six stays of deportation for Sabido before the seventh stay was denied in May 2017. Sabido entered sanctuary in the Mancos church on June 2, 2017.
“She has lived here for so long and she has tried in so many ways to find a solution. At this point, a private bill is the only way to bring about change,” Kain-Rios said in delivering the petition to Tipton’s office.
Joshua Green, chief of staff for Tipton, said after conversations with the House committee that handles private bills, Tipton’s office determined that a private bill would not work in the House “because the case does not meet the committee’s criteria for private bills.”
Green added, “We have explained this to members of the group in the past and have also encouraged them to engage Sen. (Michael) Bennet, who has indicated his support for a private bill in the Senate.”
Federal privacy law, he said, prevents him from commenting about specific casework Tipton’s office has conducted with Sabido.
He added in an email: “We are aware of Rosa’s situation, and currently have an open case on her behalf. Congressman Tipton is always committed to helping people in the 3rd District navigate problems with federal agencies and understands the passion the community has for Rosa and their frustration.”
Michelle Ferrigno Warren, a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate who attended the vigil, said the gathering on East Second Avenue was a beautiful expression of community support to help Sabido change her immigration status and return her life to normal.
“This would help her move beyond sanctuary, to move beyond wondering if she can stay here,” Ferrigno Warren said.
Outside Tipton’s office, Wendolyn Omana with Rosa Belongs Here told the crowd when Sabido entered sanctuary in June 2017, she thought she might be there a few weeks, perhaps a month.
“She never imagined she would be in sanctuary for 1,000 days. Imagine being trapped in your house for only three days,” Omana said.
Sabido, who addressed the crowd via a recording, thanked attendees for their support.
“For 1,000 days, I’ve entered sanctuary with the conviction that justice is equal and fair for all. Now, I only have my faith that justice will prevail,” she said on the recording.
Jennifer Trussel with Rosa Belongs Here asked Tipton’s office to respond to the group within 30 days with a decision about whether he would introduce the private immigration bill in Congress.
Kain-Rios said if Tipton agreed to introduce a private bill to legalize Sabido’s immigration status, it might lead to bigger, much-needed reform of immigration law.
“Private bills have often been a harbinger of broader change that’s needed,” she said. “And broader reform is needed with immigration laws that leave so many anxious, living under a system where enforcement is so arbitrary they don’t know what will happen next.”