MANCOS – This weekend, Mancos community members marked two years of Rosa Sabido living in sanctuary at the United Methodist Church.
The Saturday vigil and fundraiser featured food, face-painting, and music in honor of Sabido, who took up residence in the church’s Fellowship Hall in June 2017 after her application for a one-year stay of removal was denied by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“It’s been very challenging and hard to remain in the same place for so long,” Sabido said.
And two years after she first took up sanctuary in the Mancos church, her future and pathway to legal residency is still uncertain.
Traveling between countriesSabido was born in the Mexican state of Veracruz in 1964, according to her immigration lawyer Jennifer Kain-Rios. Her stepfather Roberto Obispo did agricultural work in the United States for several years, allowing him to then apply for permanent residency because of a legalization program for “special agricultural workers,” according to Kain-Rios.
He became a lawful permanent resident in the late 1980s and was able to attain citizenship in 1999. Obispo was able to petition for Blanca Valdivia, his spouse and Sabido’s mother, to become a lawful permanent resident – she did so in 2001, and would later become a citizen.
Obispo had established a home in Cortez in 1984, and Sabido and her mother traveled back and forth between Mexico and Colorado to visit him through the late 1980s and 1990s. After Blanca retired from her job in Mexico in 1993, she stayed in Cortez with her husband.
Sabido made several treks between the two countries until 1998, using a visitor visa. She spent more time in the United States, though, according to Kain-Rios.
Cortez is homeCortez is her home, Sabido says. “For 32 years, and counting, and then two years in sanctuary,” she said. “More than half of my life.” She held a variety of jobs, including as a housekeeper at Days Inn, at the Ute Mountain Casino, and at H&R Block doing tax preparation.
But while Obispo was able to petition for residency for immediate relatives, including his spouse, he was not able to petition for Sabido – he and Valdivia had married on Rosa’s 18th birthday.
“For U.S. immigration law to recognize the relationship of stepchild between Rosa and Roberto, the marriage needed to take place before she turned 18,” Kain-Rios wrote in a summary document.
Valdivia petitioned for Sabido to obtain lawful permanent residency in 2001. She’s still on the waiting list, but due to the limited number of visas available for each immigrant category, it’s still expected to be many years before she can apply for residency based on her mother’s petition, Kain-Rios said.
Seeking legal statusAfter facing questioning and being sent back to Mexico at one point in 1998, Kain-Rios said, Sabido decided to try and obtain legal status. She underwent questioning and rounds in immigration courts, oftentimes representing herself. But her application and subsequent appeals and petitions were denied.
She attended an interview with ICE in 2004, and then joined her family in Cortez. Four-and-a-half years later, she was arrested by ICE officials.
“There is no available evidence of correspondence from ICE to Rosa after the March 2004 ICE interview, which she attended,” Kain-Rios wrote. “ICE arrested Rosa at her family home on September 12, 2008, having classified her as a fugitive.”
She was released from the ICE office in Durango under an Order of Supervision, mostly because of a serious medical condition – she underwent major abdominal surgery in March 2009, according to Kain-Rios.
After that, Sabido was able to obtain legal counsel. Kain-Rios filed an application for a one-year stay of removal back in 2011, and Sabido was able to obtain a one-year stay of removal five more times.
In spring of 2017, though, her seventh application was denied, leading her to seek out sanctuary at the Mancos United Methodist Church. The congregation agreed to host her, and she officially began living in sanctuary on June 2, 2017.
Sanctuary in MancosSabido is one of a handful of women who have taken up sanctuary in Colorado. They have since joined together and become sort of spokeswomen for others in the immigrant community.
“It’s not something that I planned, not something that I had in mind, to become part of a movement or to advocate for others,” Sabido said. She added that she is appreciative of the church congregation for their support and for providing her with the space.
“It’s a mission I feel I have to accomplish,” Sabido said. “And that I need to somehow let the community know – just show them our life and who we are. ... A lot of families just try to support their children and do their best for their families.”
For Sabido to be protected by her sanctuary status, she must remain on church property.
“There are so many things I’m not able to do,” she said. Simple things, she added, like work or even walking. Most of the time she stays inside the Fellowhsip Hall building, although she attends church each Sunday.
Her attorney said that while “sanctuary is outside of a legal framework,” it is supported by “constitutional protections from unlawful search and seizure.”
“A person in sanctuary provides a living example of injustice and a call for change,” Kain-Rios wrote.
Two years later, Sabido’s future still remains uncertain. She is still waiting for her mother’s petition to pass through the system, but even when it does, it will be difficult for her to attain permanent residency. Her own immigration history is not legally perfect, as she does not have 10 years of continuous residency in the United States – apparently she stayed too long in Mexico on one of her visits.
Saturday’s vigil saw an appearance from Let Them Roar, an acoustic quartet from the Roaring Fork Valley who just launched a campaign in support of the Colorado women who have taken up sanctuary.
The band was first inspired to launch the “I See My Light” campaign when Sandra Lopez took up sanctuary in Carbondale. The musicians are currently traveling around the state, performing and raising funds for their campaign, partly through selling singles of a song they wrote.
“The song was largely inspired by Rosa and Sandra,” said Sophia Clark, who sings and plays guitar with the band. “And their faith that it’s worth fighting, and that their lives are worth fighting for.”