The Mancos United Methodist Church hosted about 20 community members Monday for a meal prepared by Rosa Sabido, a Mexican national taking refuge in the church.
The event was part of the 643-mile Sanctuary Caravan across Colorado that demands changes in immigration policy. Supporters want the creation of a path to citizenship for immigrants who face deportation, and are focusing on The Sanctuary Four, a group of Mexican women currently or recently living in congregations around Colorado for fear of deportation.
The caravan Monday sought to raise awareness for The People’s Resolution, a document that outlines steps Colorado officials should take “to provide official mercy and support to all four women.”
During a break from preparing a meal for caravan guests, Sabido reflected on her sanctuary situation, and her hopes for the future.
“I’m staying positive and keeping focused,” she said. “It’s bittersweet because I have all this love and support, but my future is uncertain.”
Before accepting sanctuary at the church, she lived and worked in Mancos for 17 years and has been taking care of her elderly parents who are citizens. Her mother died in July.
Sabido is pinning her hopes on introducing a private immigration bill in Congress that would grant her residency status. From there, she could continue the application process toward citizenship.
The bill needs a legislator sponsor and would need to be passed by both the House and Senate, then signed by President Donald Trump.
“Right now, I am at sanctuary status, and I am asking for help from the legislature,” she said.
Sabido said she has spent a small fortune while working toward citizenship over the years. She added that while working on the application process, she had permission to live and work in the country under an employment authorization status that is renewed every year by U.S. Citizens and Immigration Services.
However, in 2016, her employment authorization was denied, and Sabido was subject to deportation to Mexico. She was granted sanctuary at the Mancos United Methodist Church by Pastor Craig Paschal in 2017.
“I’ve been working, paying taxes, volunteering,” Sabido said. “I learned English, and I’m not a criminal. It has been tough emotionally. I feel like I’ve been a good community member.”
Sabido said many deportation cases deserve a second look, and she believes immigration reform is needed.
The resolution calls on Colorado’s senators and representatives to create a path to legal permanent residency for those who have temporary protected status because they came from dangerous countries, such as El Salvador, Yemen and Syria.
It also requests a path to legal permanent residency for beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and the parents of U.S. citizens.
A key component of reform should be a more efficient application process to reduce long wait times and high costs for applicants, she said.
For example, Sabido’s mother had petitioned for her to become a citizen many years ago, boosting her ongoing citizen application.
“But after she passed away, the petition was automatically canceled,” Sabido said, adding that over the years, she has spent $100,000 toward citizenship.
The People’s Resolution is an effort by The Sanctuary Four and their supporters that started in fall 2017 amid heightened fears of deportation.
The four women have been the subjects of deportation orders from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Sandra Lopez, one of the four, safely left a congregation in Carbondale in August after ICE said in a statement to her lawyer that she was not a priority for deportation.
Sabido and the two other women face deportation if they leave their congregations; so far, places of worship have been safe refuges for people facing deportation orders.
“Historically, ICE has never come into a church. Churches have always been deemed safe zones by ICE, but with this current administration, nothing is the same anymore,” said Lynn Patrick, one of the community organizers who has assisted Sabido during her stay in the Mancos church.
Jennifer Piper, an organizer of the caravan and advocate for The People’s Resolution, says the document was born of necessity.
“We have so many people being deported, and so many people being ripped away from their families, so many people who want to get on a path (to citizenship) but can’t, and when we consulted with their lawyers, it really seems that the root of the problem for most folks who have been here a long time is this bill that was passed in 1996,” Piper said.
Among other changes, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 implemented a requirement that people illegally present in the U.S. for more than 180 days be removed from the country, unless pardoned, for at least three years. The requirement nullified any path to citizenship for migrants who are illegally present in the U.S. for an extended period of time.
Monday morning, a small group of advocates protested in Durango n front of the Centennial Center in Bodo Industrial Park where Sen. Cory Gardner, R- Colo., has an office.
“I believe in the right of people to be where they are and be safe and be treated as human beings,” said Kathy Barrett, a Durango resident. She was among a small group gathered in front of the Centennial Center in Bodo Industrial Park where Sen. Cory Gardner, R- Colo., has an office.
From Mancos, the caravan traveled to Grand Junction, Carbondale, Castle Rock and Colorado Springs before concluding Thursday in Aurora and Denver, according to a press release from Piper, of American Friends Service Committee.
Journal reporter Jim Mimiaga and Durango Herald reporter Mary Shinn contributed to this report.