The National Sanctuary Collective (Colectivo Santuario) held a press conference Wednesday, October 28, to ask former Vice President Joe Biden to commit to free community leaders living in sanctuary churches if he is elected. The Sanctuary leaders will deliver to the Biden campaign a petition and letters of support from organizations and elected officials around the country. The National Sanctuary Collective is made up of immigrants living in Sanctuary churches, organizers, attorneys, and allies in faith communities across the country.
MANCOS, Colo. — Facing deportation to Mexico, Rosa Sabido took sanctuary on June 2, 2017, inside the Mancos United Methodist Church in this deeply conservative corner of Colorado.
Supporters held vigils after her first 100 days, then the first 600 days, then the first 1,000.
Still, she remains. Marooned.
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. Two food trucks she once operated sit idle behind her empty mobile home in nearby Cortez.
She spends her days writing poetry, working on her case and walking the dark halls and green lawn of the church, careful never to step onto the sidewalk.
“I think we are all surprised that she’s been here over three years,” said the church pastor, Craig Paschal. “Hopefully, it won’t all be for naught.”
About 45 people across the country sought refuge in churches shortly after President 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 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, including a Peruvian immigrant who gave birth in a church recreation room in Boulder, Colo., last year. 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 U.S. in 1987 on a visitor visa to see her mother, Blanca, and stepfather Roberto, legal residents living in Cortez, about 17 miles west of Mancos.
Her mother filed a petition for Sabido to become a permanent resident, a process that takes years. In the meantime, Sabido traveled between the U.S. 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 U.S. and was sent back to Mexico.
A month later, she crept through a narrow tunnel into Nogales, Ariz., 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.
The small adobe church offered sanctuary. It was no guarantee against deportation, but the federal government rarely raided houses of worship.
Sabido, single with no children, scrambled to pack. She bid a tearful farewell to her dogs. Her distraught mother told her she’d be better off in Mexico than a prisoner in a church.
But Mexico wasn’t home anymore. She’d spent more than three decades in the U.S. She spoke English fluently. And she had faith in the system.
When she entered the church, it was national news. Mancos, a rural town of about 1,400 in a county that heavily favored Trump in the 2016 election, seemed an unlikely sanctuary, making the story even more compelling.
“In the beginning people came every day — hour after hour — wanting to get to know me, to hear my story,” she recalled. “So I had to tell my story so many times for months and months. The media was here all the time. They wanted to watch everything I did. One asked me to crack open the bathroom door so he could film me brushing my teeth.”
The church installed a shower for her and converted the nursery into a bedroom.
Sabido was soon inundated by supporters who included her in yoga, drum circles, singing, cooking sessions and crafting.
“You are surrounded by strangers, but you must build relationships because you depend on everyone for everything — food, clothing,” she said. “You don’t feel like you have any power at all.”
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.
“I missed being with her on the last day of her life. That stays with me all the time,” Sabido said. “I wanted to take care of her and I couldn’t.”
Through it all, a small army of supporters has pressed her case. They asked local Congressman Scott Tipton, a Republican who represents the district, to sponsor a private bill to legalize Sabido’s status.
Private bills, often used when other remedies are exhausted, must still pass the House, Senate and be signed by the president. Tipton visited Sabido but refused to introduce a bill. He recently lost a primary to a candidate who claimed he was insufficiently pro-Trump.
Tipton’s office did not respond to requests for comment.
Colorado’s Democratic senator, Michael Bennet, also visited Sabido. But all he could offer was hope that Trump would lose in November and a new administration would take up her case.
Sabido still has strong support in Mancos and Cortez. When a local police officer walked into the church one day, parishioners feared the worst. He approached Sabido, handed her his card and said to call if she needed anything.
“Even people who are anti-immigrant say she should be allowed to stay,” said Katie Wall, owner of Zuma Natural Foods in Mancos.
The COVID-19 pandemic has increased Sabido’s isolation but also given her time to reflect. She’s stopped all activities and most face-to-face interactions.
“I was never patient but have learned patience. I have learned to be with myself,” she said. “I can see all the colors, forms and textures of my life that you don’t see unless you are forced to.”
She has become an outspoken champion of immigration reform. Her story has spread nationally on social media and the website rosabelongshere.org.
Each week she takes part in a Zoom meeting with some of the roughly 40 others in sanctuary.
On a recent call, six joined from churches around the country.
“For me it’s like prison, the only difference is we are not with other people,” said Juana Ortega, 48, of Guatemala, in sanctuary in North Carolina after being denied asylum.
“One of the biggest changes for me was developing diabetes and high blood pressure in sanctuary,” said Alirio Gamez, 44, of El Salvador, who took refuge in a Texas church when his asylum request was rejected. “The doctor said it could have been from the stress and worry of this situation.”
“I don’t know if I can go on much longer,” said Alex Garcia, 39, of Honduras, who has been in sanctuary for three years in Missouri to avoid deportation for being in the country illegally. “If Trump wins I don’t think we have any hope.”
Sabido spends much of her time on the church’s back lawn, where a bamboo screen offers her privacy from the street.
“I worry about wearing out my welcome,” she said quietly.
Paschal said he can’t imagine asking her to leave. He works just down the hall from where she sleeps. Their bathrooms are inches apart. She shares the cramped kitchen with the whole church.
“Everyone has had to make sacrifices,” the pastor said. “The biggest thing is really learning to share the space. Learning to work together. We have a really active church and we kind of bump into each other.”
If Trump wins reelection, Sabido, who is now 56, knows this much: “I won’t spend another four years in sanctuary.”
She can walk out of the church and disappear into the shadows or return to Mexico with nothing.
If she could freely leave today, she said, she’d go into the woods, sit by the river and listen to the wind.
“Then I would have to face the painful truth of how things have changed,” she said. “What I have lost.”
A Q&A with Mexican national seeking refuge at Mancos United Methodist Church
Erika Alvero Durango Herald Staff Reporter
April 12, 2020
Social distancing and stay-at-home orders may be new to most of us, but for Rosa Sabido, who has lived in church sanctuary for more than 1,000 days, it is all too familiar.
Sabido, a Mexican national, has been living at the Mancos United Methodist Church since June 2017, after her application for a one-year stay of removal was denied by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
During her nearly three years on church grounds, Sabido has had much time to reflect on her situation, and on the challenges and value of isolation. While sometimes she feels restless and trapped, the experience has also offered her a chance to practice patience and “releasing control,” she said.
On Friday, Sabido spoke with The Journal about her self-imposed isolation and offered some advice for those now forced to stay home because of the coronavirus pandemic. She also shared some thoughts about what the present state of the world can teach us.
Thinking back to when you first started living in sanctuary at the Mancos United Methodist Church in June 2017, what were those first few days and weeks like being confined on church grounds, unable to leave?
The beginning was a shocking experience because I didn’t know I was going to be in this situation, and it was a matter of days for me to make the transition and do it. I was feeling afraid, and there were a lot of tears those first days, that first night. Especially when I was opening my eyes in the morning and seeing that I was in this place. I was living a totally different reality than what it was before.
Did you feel restless or trapped?
Yes. And it has happened to me many times, and there are days where I wish I could just go and walk. There were times where even I was physically feeling like – I can describe this like when people get those shirts or ropes to hold their hands when they suffer some mental illnesses and they cannot move. I was kind of feeling that way, that no matter how I felt, I was not able to move and change the situation.
When you first took sanctuary, what kinds of activities occupied your days in those first few weeks?
Well I was surrounded with a lot of people. A lot of people from the community came to visit.
My activities were pretty much talking with these people, and answering phone calls and replying to emails and trying to cope with the fact that I was here. At the beginning, there was frustration. And then slowly I had to surrender because I couldn’t fight against the situation.
Then I started doing some activities, different activities with different people from the community, like arts and crafts and jewelry-making, and tried to stay as normal as possible. Doing the normal things like cooking and trying to see this time as a great moment of transformation and learning process.
Releasing that control – that things that used to be our way, or tried to do it our way. Now it’s not in our hands. It was not in my hands. And it still is not.
What have you learned in this time?
I’ve learned how to surrender to the circumstances and trust. Just go with the rhythm of how they’re happening. At the same time, I know I have to be watchful and careful to feel safe. But also not forgetting that I have a goal.
To know that there’s something I’m working for, an objective. And that helps me to remain faithful in knowing there’s going to be a moment, that this will end. Then I will be free, and then I will enjoy the things that I wanted to.
What forms of communication do you like to use, if not face-to-face?
Now I’ve been having video conferences with different people. Even doing some presentations with some organizations, and email, text, social media. Pretty much all the same as before.
I’m still getting email, people still bring me food and things that I need. I don’t really see people, they just leave it in front of the door. I try to be careful and clean everything, wash everything. I still have the contact, like people keep asking me and texting me how I am doing, and how I am feeling.
Has a sense of normalcy returned for you, living in sanctuary? How long did that take?
I don’t think this has become normal in any way, and I don’t want it to be. Because this shouldn’t be normal for anybody. Because this is not how we’re created to be, to be isolated or to be secluded. I think I had to be OK with the situation because I know that’s better for my mental health. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to go back to live a free life, or to do the things that I wanted to do.
Do you think the current coronavirus situation will help people understand better what you’ve been dealing with for so long?
I hope it does. I know a lot of people said that they can never be in my situation, and they can never feel the way I’m feeling, but I’m certainly sure right now that they’re starting to understand a little better.
But I hope they really understand that this is not what life is supposed to look like. And also realize that this is very unfair. Even though their situation is very similar, there is still a lot of privilege in (other people’s) life.
From the fact that they can still go to the store, or they can just go for a walk in this beautiful area where we live. We are blessed that there is a lot of country and forest and lakes and mountains. They can go for a walk and they don’t necessarily need to see other people. And I still have to be in this place. Sooner or later they’re going to all be free again, this is all going to be over for them, and for me it’s not.
So maybe it’ll help them to realize what I’m asking for, their support and help, and advocating for the immigrant community, and people in sanctuary. We cannot live life forever like this.
Some of your supporters recently petitioned U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton to sponsor a bill that would provide a legal path to citizenship for you. Any updates on that?
No, they went to deliver the petition, and a week later is when all this happened. We went from one reality to a completely surreal moment that we are living in. Of course, I understand people are concerned with how to take care of themselves, this confusion and panic.
I don’t think that was the moment to push anything. Maybe now people are at home and they have a little more time to help me to push it through a little better. But it’s a new reality. We’re going to start working on it, I know it’s not going to be as we thought it was going to be – the deadline of March 27.
Do you have advice for self-isolating and staying sane?
Yes. It’s really hard to stop in life when we are fully active and working and in and out and just focusing on working, never have time to rest, really rest mentally and spiritually, rest and take a break. We don’t like to stop. Even if we are saying we’re watching TV, our mind goes crazy.
I’d like to tell people to really sit, reflect and really let go of the frustration. Because that (frustration) is not going to change anything. That is not going to change the situation. And they are missing a great opportunity to take an understanding of themselves and their loved ones in this forced time of quality time.
Take the opportunity for learning, but there is also this chance to decompress and sit. There are always things we wish to change or modify or improve or get rid of in our lives. Not only in our surroundings, our environment, but in ourselves. Things that no longer serve us in life. And I think this is a great opportunity, you know.
Rosa Sabido creyó tenerlo todo, padres ciudadanos y un permiso de trabajo que parecían allanar el camino para regularizar su estatus migratorio, pero el trámite se dilató y cuando por fin parecía que iba a alcanzar su estatus de residente, su destino se torció.
The decision to open their church to immigrants wasn’t one Pastor Patrick Shebeck and his 700-member congregation in St. Paul, Minn., took lightly.
“We wanted to be smart about it, so we researched for eight or nine months, sought legal advice and studied the history of sanctuary movements” after the 2016 election, said Pastor Shebeck, of St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church.
The church eventually took in four people who had applied for asylum in the U.S. and began providing material support for another person who was in the country illegally.
While many white evangelicals remain core supporters of President Trump and his policies, some churches around the U.S. are taking a different path. As the Trump administration increases immigration enforcement, some congregations are joining synagogues and other religious institutions in opening their doors to provide sanctuary to asylum seekers and illegal immigrants.
In Minnesota alone, around 60 congregations provide sanctuary or supporting services to immigrants living in the U.S. illegally. Nationally, that number is estimated to be around 1,000, according to Church World Service, a faith-based aid organization. More than 70 synagogues around the country have committed to helping immigrants and asylum seekers, according to T’ruah, a Jewish human-rights organization.
“We’re calling it sacred resisting,” said Rev. Noel Andersen, the grass-roots coordinator for Church World Service.
With the number of families crossing the U.S.-Mexico border surging to new records, Mr. Trump is trying new policies to restrict migration.
Mr. Trump signed an executive order in early 2017 allowing the government to fine undocumented immigrants who remain in the U.S. and the people who assist them.
Other new policies include barring asylum claims from people who have crossed through at least one other country on their way to the U.S. and expanding “expedited removal,” or deportation, policy.
Rosa Sabido came to the U.S. from Mexico in 1987 and first sought refuge at Mancos United Methodist Church, in Colorado, in June 2017. She wanted to avoid being deported after her stay-of-removal request was denied. For more than 750 days since then, Ms. Sabido said, she hasn’t set one foot over the church’s property line. She hasn’t had a medical checkup at a doctor’s office, shopped in a store or even taken a stroll around the block.
“I have never left this place. Even to think about leaving in an emergency or extreme circumstances, it really gets me nervous and fills me with fear and panic,” Ms. Sabido said.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement deported 256,085 undocumented immigrants in fiscal 2018, a 13% increase from the previous year and comparable to the number of deportations during former President Obama’s last year in office.
In mid-July, as fears of ICE raids spread, there was an uptick in the number of families seeking sanctuary, said Minister JaNaé Bates, communications director for Isaiah, a coalition of faith groups in Minnesota. “It almost always coincides with the executive orders and threats of harm to immigrant families,” she said, referring to enforcement raidsand the administration’s family-separation policy, among other things.
A spokesman for ICE said the agency continues to focus its limited resources on those who pose the greatest threat to public safety. “ICE only conducts targeted enforcement,” he said.
Many cities and counties around the U.S., however, no longer detain low-risk illegal immigrants just because the ICE asks. The sanctuary-city movement is challenging the crackdown on illegal immigration and putting local governments at odds with the administration. President Trump has threatened to withhold federal money from sanctuary cities and floated the idea of relocating detained immigrants to those cities.
Churches have long served as places of refuge, from sheltering escaped slaves as part of the Underground Railroad to providing safe haven for Central Americans fleeing conflict. Often, they have done so with little interference from the government.
In 2011, ICE designated religious institutions as “sensitive locations,” with protections from immigration enforcement. Still, not every church has embraced the sanctuary approach for undocumented immigrants.
“There are, of course, going to be folks who are going to say this is plain wrong, and others who see this as decidedly too political and radical,” said Ruth M. Melkonian-Hoover, a professor of political science at Gordon College, in Wenham, Mass., who co-wrote a book on the divisions within evangelicalism over immigration politics.
White evangelical Protestants, in particular, remain a strong core of Mr. Trump’s base. Almost three-quarters of white evangelicals support a wall expansion along the U.S.-Mexico border, according to a January 2019 survey by Pew Research Center.
Church leaders, even if they agree with providing sanctuary for the undocumented in principle, may believe their own congregation’s time is better spent aiding immigrants in other ways, such as providing legal assistance, Dr. Melkonian-Hoover said.
Now, many seeking refuge in churches face the possibility of fines.
Citing the Immigration and Nationality Act, ICE since last December has been issuing civil fines of up to $500 a day to people who have been ordered to leave the country or who have been granted voluntary departure but failed to leave, an agency spokesperson said.
“To me, it’s a war against the poor,” said Jim Rigby, pastor of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Austin, Texas. An undocumented Guatemalan immigrant and her son, who have been taking shelter in his church for the past two years, received a notification that they were fined $303,620 by ICE in July.
“The fines that they’ve sent out, the only purpose of that is fear,” Pastor Rigby said.
The ICE spokesman said, “Unlawfully present foreign nationals are subject to arrest and removal regardless of how long they remain within a designated sensitive location.”
For congregations that have decided to offer sanctuary, the choice isn’t necessarily informed by politics, but by faith. “Jesus himself was a refugee, Mary and Joseph were refugees,” said Pastor Shebeck, of St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church.
In mid-February, Rosa Sabido will mark her 600th day of living in sanctuary in the Mancos United Methodist Church.
What does it mean to live in sanctuary? And why would someone make a choice to do such a thing?
The church accepted Sabido on Friday, June 2, 2017. She is there because she does not want to be deported, something which is happening to people who check in for routine appointments with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement).
Sabido, who speaks perfect English, was born in Mexico, but has spent most of her life in the United States, arriving in 1987 at age 23 for the first time, to visit her parents. She obtained a visitor visa.
Her mother, Blanca, who had divorced Sabido’s biological father when Sabido was ten, came to the United States in the early 1980s, and married Roberto Obispo, an agricultural worker living in the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident in Cortez. Obispo became a U.S. citizen in 1999, and filed papers that allowed Blanca to become a citizen in 2001. However, at that time, immigration law did not allow Sabido to be included as a family member.
When people hear about Mexicans living in the U.S. or seeking sanctuary to avoid deportation, many ask, “Why don’t they follow the laws and become a legal citizen?” But the pathway is often arduous, even impossible.
Sabido, now 53, wants people to know she is not a criminal. She has been trying to follow the complex immigration laws and become a legal U.S. citizen for more than 20 years. During that time the laws and regulations have changed, with each change bringing a new set of procedures to comply with.
Deseo agradecer a todas las personas que asistieron a la Verbena y contribuyeron a hacer de este evento un momento hermoso, compartiendo con amigos y la comunidad. Este dia especial estuvo lleno de luz que salia del brillo de sus almas, con un atmosfera increible, vibrante y llena de color.
Gracias por todo el amor que recibi.
I would like to thank all the people who attended the Verbena and helped me to make of the event a beautiful time, sharing with friends and community. This special day was filled with light coming from the sparkle of your souls, it was an amazing atmosphere, vibrant and colorful.
MANCOS, Colo. – Fear of deportation has forced one woman to go church.
For almost a year, the Mancos United Methodist Church has provided Rosa Sabido sanctuary and a home.
“I just came blindly but looking with the conviction that I will fight until the end,” she said. “In that moment it was not easy. I didn’t know if I was to pack for one week or if I had to pack up for a year.”
In the summer of 2017, more people had claimed Sanctuary in Colorado than any other state. That fall, four of us, Araceli, Ingrid, Rosa and Sandra, began to support one another across the miles. As we gathered our communities together, we identified a hunger to name the concrete steps elected officials can take now to Create a path to Status. The Sanctuary Four began consulting with lawyers, immigrant and faith communities to pull together simple, direct steps at the federal and state level to keep Colorado whole and strong. The People’s Resolution is the result of five months of work and study.
We know a majority of fellow Coloradans, regardless of political party, support creating a path and revamping our immigration system to be just, efficient and transparent. We invite Coloradans to walk with us to Create a Path. Endorse the Resolution and commit to action. Learn more and join us in engaging your local elected officials, businesses and faith communities.
The Resolution calls on the Colorado delegation, the Colorado legislature and the Governor to take steps now. Our families and communities will not wait.
Inside a tiny Colorado church, a woman who had been taking refuge for nearly nine months was sitting by a window, watching the snow drift down. She watched for an hour, then another, reminding herself for the 257th day in a row why she had chosen to be here, when there was a knock at the door.“Rosa?” called a voice from the hallway, and then she remembered. Today was the day of the surprise.
When we photographed her, it was nine months to the day she found sanctuary in a small Southwestern church to avoid deportation. The community she has been a part of for thirty years has rallied in support, and people speak of her with words like kind, a nurturer, strong in her faith, a great sense of humor, and humble. They have started a website called Rosa Belongs Here where they have vowed to stand by her.
One of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people visits Mancos
The United Methodist Church on December 23, 2017, hosted Las Posadas, a Mexican Christmas tradition that re-enacts Mary and Joseph’s search for shelter before the birth of Jesus.
Jeanette Vizguerra, an immigration activist from the Denver area who spent 86 days in sanctuary earlier this year, spoke during the event.
After Las Posadas and a meet-and-greet with Rosa Sabido and Vizguerra, guests were invited to stay for a community Christmas dinner.
Las Posadas is a celebration traditionally held in Mexico during the Advent season. Two people dressed like Mary and Joseph go to different houses in a town each night and sing a song asking for shelter. The resident of each house sings another song denying the request, until the couple reaches the house belonging to the designated stable owner, who finally invites them in.
The ceremony in Mancos was an abridged version.
The crowd split into two groups, one going around to each door asking for a place to stay, the other singing from inside and rejecting them, until the last door.
After Las Posadas, everyone gathered in the yard to watch children tear down a piñata.
“How can I feel not loved with this many people,” Sabido said. “It brings some good into the sadness. Seeing their smiling faces happy and coming to be with me is wonderful.”
Sabido also highlighted that much like the event earlier this year that marked her first 100 days in sanctuary, this was a celebration of the community, not her.
“It is a celebration, not my celebration, a celebration of the community,” Sabido said.
According to a news release from the church, Dec. 19 was be the 200th day since Sabido, a Cortez resident, claimed sanctuary to avoid deportation. But the posada event was scheduled to coincide with Vizguerra’s visit. She visited Mancos as part of a tour through several Colorado sanctuary churches around the Christmas season.
Vizguerra is the founder of MUJERR, an advocacy group for migrant women. In April, she was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world for 2017.
The two women have been talking for months, sharing words of encouragement.
“In the past, I have one promise for Rosa, to come and support her case,” Vizguerra said in an interview with The Journal. “In the state of Colorado, there are five people in sanctuary, and one is Rosa. Rosa is part of the sanctuary movement, and it is very important to me to support Rosa’s case.”
Vizguerra said that with the current administration, her advocacy has become more difficult.
“In this moment, it is very important for people living in sanctuary and for resistance to cases,” Vizguerra. “Your house is here, your family is here, and your community is here.”
When asked what is next in her advocacy campaign, Vizguerra promised to continue fighting for immigrant rights, even harder in the new year.
Mancos residents gathered at the town’s United Methodist Church on Sunday to honor Cortez resident Rosa Sabido’s 100th day in sanctuary there.
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 lived at the United Methodist Church in Mancos since June 2 and hopes to buy herself enough time to apply for another stay of removal and continue to seek permanent residency. She has spent the past 100 days seeking legal options to avoid deportation.
As dusk fell on the small town, about 50 area residents, local religious leaders and friends of Sabido gathered outside the church around a wood-burning stove during a candlelight vigil in support of the woman and the congregation. Several people read poems, sang songs or delivered messages of encouragement. Some wrote down prayers on cards that the church provided and threw them into the stove to symbolize sending them to God. Others put symbolic items or personal notes on an altar.
Sabido said that, in some ways, the past few months have felt like “100 years.” Fearing deportation, she hasn’t left the church fellowship hall, but she said regular visits and gifts from her neighbors have been a continual source of encouragement.
“People have carried me through … these 100 days,” she said. “They haven’t let me feel the burden of solitude.”
Ever since Sabido arrived at the church, several members have worked to raise money and awareness of her plight through social media and events such as Mancos’ Grand Summer Nights arts and community gathering. Proceeds from the sale of T-shirts and greeting cards with the slogan “Rosa Belongs Here” have help to pay her mortgage and legal bills, church staff said, and several people have donated food and other necessities to make her time at the church more comfortable. A legal committee is gathering signatures for a petition asking U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, to sponsor a bill that would grant Sabido legal residency.
At Sunday’s vigil, Sabido and her supporters acknowledged her journey is far from over. Sabido said she doesn’t expect the bill to pass before the end of the year, even if Tipton agrees to support it. United Methodist’s pastor, the Rev. Craig Paschal, and his congregation reaffirmed their commitment to shelter Sabido for as long as necessary. Paschal said he also wanted to use the vigil as a way to show support for immigrants across the United States.
“We would also like to extend, not only healing and restoration for (Sabido), but for all immigrants, as well as all of us,” he said. “We are standing here in love for our neighbor, and our neighbor is the entire world.”
Paschal asked attendees to offer prayers for themselves, their communities and the nation.
Several speakers mentioned their concern over tightened U.S. immigration policy, particularly since President Donald Trump’s administration announced on Sept. 5 that he plans to phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. DACA was instituted by President Barack Obama’s administration in 2012 as a way to allow people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children to apply for work permits and Social Security numbers. It is available only to people who came to the U.S. before their 16th birthday, have continually resided in the country since June 15, 2007, and have no criminal record, among other requirements. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, DACA is no longer accepting new applicants.
But while attendees brought up a few other political issues, Sabido’s plight was the focus. Several of her friends and neighbors spoke about their ongoing prayers for her and promised to sign the petition on her behalf. Local singers, including busker Donna Joerg and Julie Hartline, who directs a women’s singing circle in which Sabido participates, led attendees in songs as varied as “Amazing Grace” and Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind.”
Joerg said she has tried to spread the word about Sabido as she sings on the street and in other public places.
“You’re already out of here,” she told her. “You’re in so many places.”
Sabido came to the U.S. from Mexico in 1987 as a visitor to live with her stepfather, Manuel Sabido, who is a legal resident. She took a job as a housekeeper at the Days Inn hotel in Cortez, and later worked for several years each at the Ute Mountain Casino and H&R Block. According to a timeline provided in June by her immigration attorney, Jennifer Kain-Rios, Sabido made several trips to Mexico in the 1990s on a travel visa, and one of those trips lasted longer than 90 days. That broke the 10-year streak of continuous residency required by U.S. immigration law, disrupting one avenue she could have used to acquire permanent legal status. She applied for permanent residency in 2001, but her petition is still pending. In the meantime, she has dodged several deportation orders and been granted six one-year stays of removal. Her application this year for a seventh one-year stay of removal was declined for unknown reasons.
Rosa Sabido 53, pauses while telling of her experiences trying to remain in the United States at the Mancos United Methodist Church on July 12, 2017. From being denied using her visitor visa to crossing the border, legal maneuverings, granted many application’s for stay of removal and now living in sanctuary, it’s a very crooked path she’s been walking, just trying to find a way home. Photo by Joe Amon – The Denver Post
Photography by Lucy Nicholson. Reporting by Ben Gruber
For nearly two months since taking sanctuary at the United Methodist Church in Mancos, a small town in the mountains of southwest Colorado, Sabido, 53, has lived in a cramped room with a makeshift shower. She sleeps beneath a mural of Noah’s Ark in what used to be the church nursery.
Sabido leaves her room to use the toilet, or stretch her legs in the garden, or attend worship services, but if she steps off church property she risks arrest by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.
Rosa Sabido, now receiving sanctuary in a Mancos church since her last application to stay in the country was denied, is not an example of problems caused by uncontrolled immigration. For the past 30 years, she has been gainfully employed, has paid taxes and has been an upstanding member of the community.
She is, though, the face of one large and often-undiscussed group of immigrants: those who have contributed to their community and the economy and who have tried to follow the rules that would allow them to remain in this country legally, but who, for a variety of reasons – some logical and some arcane – have come up short. These are the intended beneficiaries of immigration reform, which has languished on the national agenda for years. Unfortunately, a nuanced view of the complex issue, necessary for true and lasting progress, does not fit well into campaign speeches.
From an interviewed posted July 4, 2017, at ksjd.org.
Few immigration cases in the United States are simple. That includes the case of Mexican immigrant Rosa Sabido, who is taking sanctuary at the Mancos United Methodist Church as she sorts out her immigration status. She can’t become a citizen because a large backlog in citizenship applications has made the wait to receive citizenship longer than the time she can legally remain in the U.S. After a long and complicated process of applying to various visas and work permits that allowed her to live and work in the U.S. legally for over 20 years, until she was arrested after an immigration court denied a request to review her case. She has since been allowed to stay in the U.S. after receiving six Stays of Removal, which have delayed her deportation by one year each. But in April, ICE denied her most recent stay of removal and instead issued an Order of Deportation, which brought her to the church to stay while she and her lawyer consider other options. When KSJD’s Austin Cope went to the church to talk with Sabido and the church’s pastor, Craig Paschal, they didn’t talk about Rosa’s immigration status– at least not at first.
From a July 4, 2017, article that appeared in the Los Angeles Times:
By David Kelly
A small piece of paper hangs above a bed in the pastor’s office at the Mancos United Methodist Church. It’s a sign-up sheet with the names of local residents committed to watching over Rosa Sabido, a Mexican national who has found sanctuary from deportation in the Colorado church. The residents sleep in the church office, while Sabido rests in a separate room normally used as a children’s nursery.
“We are here in case someone should show up at night or just to comfort her,” Joanie Trussel, a local resident whose name was on the list of volunteers, said recently. “We don’t want her to be alone.”
For the last 30 years, Sabido has lived in the U.S. on visitor visas or by receiving stays of deportation, but she was denied a stay in May and became eligible for immediate deportation.
Rosa Sabido finds sanctuary from immigrant detention in a politically divided town.
This month, Rosa Sabido, a 53-year old woman of “impeccable character,” became the 11th person nationwide currently in sanctuary in a church. The other churches providing sanctuary sit in metropolitan areas such as Albuquerque, Chicago and Phoenix. The next smallest congregation is in Las Cruces, New Mexico, a city of 98,000.
By comparison, the Mancos United Methodist Church, which sits on a quiet road off Highway 160 in Mancos, Colorado, and has 55 members, seems tiny and vulnerable.