Leaders of the National Sanctuary Collective will hold a virtual news conference Tuesday calling on President Joe Biden to free about 45 people who are in the country illegally and have taken up sanctuary in houses of worship.
The number of people who have sought refuge in churches includes, Rosa Sabido, who took sanctuary June 2, 2017, inside the Mancos United Methodist Church.
Supporters held vigils after her first 100 days, then the first 600 days, then the first 1,000.
Now, the National Sanctuary Collective is looking for Biden to free people who have sought sanctuary in houses of worship under new immigration policies the Biden administration announced last week.
Sanctuary leaders will hold a virtual news conference at 11 a.m. to call on the Biden administration to free them from the threat of deportation and allow them to remain in the country – freeing them from the confines of the churches where they have sought refuge from deportation.
In the more than three years Sabido has spent in the church, her mother has died, along with five elderly dogs she left with a stepfather.
She once operated two food trucks in Cortez, but now they sit idle behind her empty mobile home.
About 45 people across the country sought refuge in churches shortly after President Donald Trump took office and lowered the bar for who would be targeted for deportation.
The Obama administration focused on deporting those with criminal records.
But in 2017, the newly elected Trump made it clear that any immigrant in the country illegally was vulnerable, even those with strong community ties and no criminal past, such as Sabido.
Some who sought sanctuary had overstayed visas or lost asylum cases.
A few had run-ins with the law, such as driving without a license, using false documents or, in one case, being charged and later acquitted of assault after a shoving match at work.
Most who went into sanctuary remain there. A few have walked away, some have won temporary stays of deportation, and others have returned to their countries.
Sabido, who grew up in Mexico City, was 23 when she entered the United States in 1987 on a visitor visa to see her mother, Blanca, and stepfather Roberto, legal residents living in Cortez.
Her mother filed a petition for Sabido to become a permanent resident, a process that takes years. In the meantime, Sabido traveled between the United States and Mexico on a visitor visa.
In 1998, during questioning by immigration officers at the Phoenix airport, she admitted to working as a babysitter in the United States and was sent back to Mexico.
A month later, she crept through a narrow tunnel into Nogales, Arizona, and made her way to Cortez, where she sold food, prepared taxes and worked as a secretary at St. Margaret Mary Church.
She was eventually arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and repeatedly applied for stays of removal – which she was granted six years in a row. Her seventh request was denied, and in 2017 she was ordered to leave the country.
In Mancos, the small adobe Methodist church offered her sanctuary.
The first year, Sabido’s mother visited every day. Then Blanca was diagnosed with breast cancer and returned to Mexico for treatment to be closer to her extended family.
She was 72 when she died July 23, 2018.
Now, Sabido and the other people in the country illegally are looking for the Biden administration to provide them a pathway to live in the country legally, free from the threat of deportation.