Living in exile: In February, Rosa Sabido will complete 600 days in sanctuary

Rosa Sabido, who has been living in sanctuary in the Mancos United Methodist Church since 2017, shows where she kisses the hands of a statue of the Virgen Guadalupe that belonged to her mother. Photo by Janneli F. Miller

Four Corners Free Press, January 2019

By Janelli Miller

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.

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