She loves the scenery, people and quietness of Cortez, where she has lived and worked for 30 years. But that idyllic scene may be coming to an end.
Sabido, a Mexican national, was told in May that her application for a one-year stay of removal was denied by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. She was ordered to leave the country or face deportation.
She has since sought sanctuary at the United Methodist Church in Mancos, where she hopes to buy herself enough time to apply for another stay of removal and continue to seek permanent residency.
“I stay in here, I go to services on Sundays, and sometimes I walk outside during the night or morning,” Sabido said this week during an interview on church grounds, where she has lived since June 2. She has a bedroom, and soon, a shower in the church’s fellowship building.
On Thursday, the church held a community gathering and press conference about Sabido’s case, asking for support as she reapplies for a stay of removal. More than 100 people crowded into the small church sanctuary as Paschal, Sabido, and several local Methodist leaders spoke.
“I have always tried to be a good citizen, a good person,” Sabido said. “I’ve just tried my best, and after all this time and all this effort, all I get is an order of deportation, and I think that’s not right. I think I deserve better. I think I deserve to be heard.”
After 30 years of living in the country, Sabido seems like an unlikely candidate for deportation. She pays taxes, has no criminal history and has worked several jobs, including eight years as secretary for the Montelores Catholic Community, a collective of churches in Southwest Colorado.
She cares for her mother, who has been a lawful permanent resident since 2001, and also lives in Cortez.
Sabido’s story is one of close calls, near misses and frustrating encounters when it comes to obtaining citizenship and delaying deportation, according to a four-page timeline and summary of events provided by Sabido’s immigration attorney, Jennifer Kain-Rios, of Lakewood.
The first close call: Sabido’s stepfather is a legal resident of the United States. But for U.S. immigration law to recognize the relationship of a stepchild, a marriage must take place before the child’s 18th birthday. Sabido’s mother married Manuel Sabido on Rosa Sabido’s 18th birthday.
Another close call: Sabido came to the United States in 1987, one year after the 1986 amnesty that gave 2.7 million undocumented residents a pathway to citizenship.
Sabido was born in 1964 in Jalapa, Veracruz, Mexico. She came to the United States as a visitor to live with her stepfather, Manuel Sabido, in Cortez. Upon arrival, Sabido took a job at the Days Inn in Cortez as a housekeeper. She also worked nine years at the Ute Mountain Casino and worked for several years for H&R Block doing tax preparation, including proving interpretation for Spanish speakers needing to file taxes.
According her attorney’s timeline, Sabido, made several trips to Mexico in the 1990s on a travel visa. But she apparently stayed in Mexico too long on one of those visits – more than 90 days – which broke 10 years of continuous residency, and disrupted an avenue to permanent residency.
After Sabido’s mother gained permanent residency, Sabido applied for permanent residency in 2001. But immigration is so backed up, her petition is still pending. In the meantime, she has dodged several deportation orders and been granted six one-year stay of removals.
But for unknown reasons, her application for a seventh one-year stay of removal was denied this year.
ICE informed Sabido that she would be detained upon showing up for her previously scheduled check-in appointment on June 5 with the ICE office in Durango.
Instead, she asked for sanctuary at the Mancos United Methodist Church.
Carl Rusnok, a spokesman for ICE, said Sabido entered the United States without permission on a return trip from Mexico in May 1998. A judge granted her a “voluntary departure” on Aug. 19, 2002, but she failed to depart, and a final order of removal became effective July 14, 2004. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals denied her last appeal on Sept. 13, 2005.
Sabido was arrested as an ICE fugitive Sept. 12, 2008, and released on an order of supervision, which required her to report periodically to an ICE office. She was granted a request for a one-year stay of removal on March 11, 2011. Since then, she has been granted five additional one-year stays of removal.
“ICE denied her latest stay of removal on April 26,” Rusnok said.
“Sabido has been illegally present in the United States for more than 30 years, and she’s had a final order of removal for more than 13 years,” he wrote in a statement to The Durango Herald. “She has ignored a federal immigration judge’s order to depart the United States since 2002; she ignored the (Bureau of Indian Affairs) orders to depart by July 13, 2004; and she ignored the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals denial.
“ICE has granted her six one-year stays of removal,” he added. “She has exhausted her appeals from the immigration and appeals courts and from ICE. She is currently an ICE fugitive.”
The United Methodist Church in Mancos is one of only nine churches across the country that are publicly providing sanctuary to immigrants facing deportation. But more than 800 churches have identified themselves as “sanctuary churches,” he said.
Churches are in no way legally immune from federal immigration laws, but so far, immigration officials haven’t made a public scene by raiding churches to arrest immigrants in sanctuary.
On Thursday, church members said they voted to become a sanctuary because they believed it was a way to love their neighbors. Norman Mark, pastor of Native Grace Intertribal Fellowship in Cortez, said a prayer for Sabido in Navajo. As a survivor of the American Indian boarding school system, he said he identified with Sabido’s desire to stay with her family.
“I believe, in some way or another, we are all immigrants to this land,” he said. “The land loves us, but we need to learn to love one another.”
It is illegal to conceal and harbor illegal immigrants, which is why the church notified ICE that Sabido is living at the church, so the church isn’t concealing her presence.
The Rev. Craig Paschal said the United Methodist Church stands in solidarity with its neighbors, including Sabido. Church members voted earlier this year to become a sanctuary church, several months before learning of Sabido’s story, he said.
“This is about our humanity, it’s about the type of community that we want to be a part of – embrace as a small town and a country – to be welcoming and neighborly to one another, so that’s what we’re doing,” he said. “The community response has been overwhelmingly supportive, and so good. It’s just about being a good neighbor and being faithful.”
He added: “We hope through Rosa’s story, people can start changing their hearts and minds toward immigration. She represents millions of people – her voice and her story.”
Journal reporter Stephanie Alderton contributed to this firstname.lastname@example.org