Undocumented Mexican migrant takes refuge in Arizona church

TUCSON Ariz. Thu Aug 7, 2014 11:46pm EDT

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TUCSON Ariz. (Reuters) - Surrounded by about 50 well-wishers, including representatives from a dozen southern Arizona congregations, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico and longtime Tucson resident took refuge on Thursday in a church that offered her sanctuary.

"I don’t want to leave here," Rosa Imelda Robles Loreto told the gathering through an interpreter. "My life is here. My children are here, and we’re going to keep on until we achieve victory,"

Loreto is due to be deported on Friday, but she will remain protected by Southside Presbyterian Church until Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) offers her a reprieve, said Pastor Alison Harrington.

"We are standing between Rosa and an unjust system," Harrington said. "They will remain here until the sanctity of their family is recognized."

Loreto was identified by ICE officials after a traffic stop, detained by Border Patrol agents and later released, said her attorney, Margo Cowan.

She appealed against the deportation order, arguing that she has deep ties to the United States, including two children, a husband, a job and a home she owns. She asked the church for help after ICE rejected her appeal.

The church said it offered her sanctuary because she is a good example of a category of undocumented immigrant made a low priority in 2011 by then-ICE Director John Morton.

In a memo, Morton offered guidance in the use of "prosecutorial discretion" and listed attributes including long-standing community ties, being a caretaker of minors, and lack of criminal history, that make a case a low priority.

ICE has said it is conducting a comprehensive review of Loreto's case "to determine appropriate next steps."

Southside averted another immigrant's deportation in June. Daniel Neyoy Ruiz, 36, spent 26 days in sanctuary before ICE granted him a one-year reprieve, after which Ruiz will have to report back to the agency, Harrington said.

ICE could administratively close Loreto's case or issue a stay, giving her time to make a case for permanent residency, or it could move forward with the deportation order, Cowan said.

Now that Loreto is in the church, it becomes a stalemate, because ICE policy forbids arrests in sensitive areas, unless there is a threat to public safety or national security.

"Then it becomes a political campaign," Cowan said. "We've made it clear we don't want to go there."

(Reporting by Brad Poole; Editing by Daniel Wallis, Sandra Maler, Sharon Bernstein and Clarence Fernandez)

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