Rosa Sabido, who has taken sanctuary at a Mancos church for 1,245 days, has joined with a national group in asking presidential candidate Joe Biden to commit to immigrants’ freedom and citizenship.
Sabido’s application for a one-year stay of removal was denied by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in June 2017, but the former church secretary has lived in Montezuma County for 33 years after moving to the U.S. from Mexico with her mother. She fought for decades to gain permanent residency but has not been successful. When threatened with deportation, the Mancos United Methodist Church offered her sanctuary.
The National Sanctuary Collective – Colectivo Santuario – delivered a petition Wednesday asking former Vice President Biden to free residents living in sanctuary churches if he is elected president.
The petition asks him to publicly commit to granting a stay of removal to each person living in sanctuary on his first day in office.
More than 5,201 people, including 43 elected officials, convention delegates and candidates have signed the petition, according to the group’s news release.
Several immigrants taking refuge from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in churches read sections of a letter echoing the demands of the petition during a virtual news conference Wednesday, including Sabido.
“We write to you as parents, immigrants and people of faith,” Sabido said.
Participants in the news conference spoke in Spanish and were assisted with an English translator.
Maria Chavalan Sut, living in sanctuary at the Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church in Charlottesville, Virginia, said ICE “threatens with massive raids that separate all the families that have been in this country for many years.”
“You (Biden) have promised that the assault against immigrants will end when you become president ... that is why we ask for your commitment to do the following for us when you become the next president of the U.S.,” she said.
The Sanctuary Collective also asked Biden to lift deportation orders against those in sanctuaries within his first 100 days in office and to sign all private bills on behalf of people living in sanctuary that Congress sends to his desk.
A moment of “hope and fear”Sabido reached out to legislators this year in the hope they will introduce a private immigration bill in Congress that would grant her residency status. From there she could continue the application process toward citizenship.
Community members and supporters of Sabido delivered a petition signed by 2,750 people to U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, in February, before the pandemic flared in the U.S. The petition called for Tipton to sponsor a personal bill that would provide a legal path for citizenship for Sabido.
Nothing has happened with the petition, and Tipton was defeated in the Republican primary by political newcomer Lauren Boebert.
“It’s not the right moment,” Sabido said in an interview with The Journal after the event.
Once the general election passes and results roll in for U.S. president, the Senate and the 3rd Congressional District seat in the House, Sabido said she will decide how to move forward or what the next step will be.
Vicky Chavez, who has been living in sanctuary at the First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City since 2018, said during the news conference that other local, state and national leaders have given them “supporting words but no concrete action.”
Biden’s commitment to freeing those in sanctuary churches would “send a message to our community that you are serious in your promise to end Trump’s attack on immigrants,” Chavez said.
Many representatives in Congress and U.S. senators have been diagnosed with or were in contact with someone who has COVID-19, and Chavez said she hopes they will compare their quarantine to immigrants’ daily life in sanctuary.
For Sabido, awaiting the results of the presidential election is a “moment of hope and fear on the same level.”
“These times are not easy – there is so much division,” Sabido said, and though immigrants in sanctuary churches “have not caused harm to anyone,” they are the “target of many.”
The tension in Montezuma County is a “bomb waiting to explode,” and Sabido said she it would likely get worse after the election.
“But I truly hope this election will bring our country back together,” Sabido said.
Not a new issueThe fight for positive immigration reform is not new, she said, but the door was open for President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, which she called “damaging.” The last major immigration reform came from former President Ronald Reagan in 1986.
Politicians have used immigration policy in a “game for power,” Sabido said – something that helps them get elected. But positive action at the federal level has not happened for a long time, she said.
Sabido said she hopes the letter will touch Biden’s heart – tocar al corazón – and that if he is elected he will take action to protect immigrants.
“This is not what a human is supposed to be living and experiencing,” Sabido said. “This is not a life.”
And immigrants “contribute a lot to this country – we still are,” she said.
“No matter what happens, I will always be filled with gratitude for the compassion and support here,” Sabido said. “These are the experiences that go with me – that is my freedom.”