Immigrant Woman In Tucson Spends A Year In Sanctuary To Avoid Deportation

By Kate Sheehy
August 07, 2015
Kate Sheehy
Rosa Robles is an unauthorized immigrant from Mexico. She has been living in sanctuary in a Tucson church for a year now. She is seeking protection from deportation.

TUCSON, Ariz. - Rosa Robles is an unauthorized immigrant from Mexico who has been in sanctuary in a Tucson church for a year on Friday. The U.S. government has said Robles is not a priority for deportation, but her lawyer said it is not safe for her to leave.

Robles has been living in Tucson for 16 years. Police stopped her for a traffic violation last year and she showed them her driver’s license from Mexico. Border Patrol was called and found Robles was in the country illegally. She said the community and the church have provided so much support for her and her family. Robles said she is blessed compared to other undocumented immigrants in detention centers. But she said she feels like a prisoner.

“My family is united, even though I’m in here, they come to visit me," Robles said in Spanish. ‘But I don’t have freedom, I’m missing moments with my family.”

“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) continues to exercise prosecutorial discretion in the matter of Ms. Robles Loreto’s immigration case by not taking action to enforce her removal order at this time," U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in a statement.

Sarah Launius is part of Robles’s legal team. She said although Robles is not a priority for deportation, with a removal order in her file, federal law enforcement could still deport her. 

“Now, we can hope that maybe someone would recognize her name and it would get flagged with someone with ICE before it would be executed. But that’s a lot of hope,” Launius said. 

Kate Sheehy
People in Tucson have been putting these signs in their yards and in front of businesses to show support for Rosa and her family to be granted permission to stay in the country.

Robles’s lawyer, Margo Cowan, said she has asked the government for a stay of removal. But she said she will accept any writing that Robles can carry on her person that protects her from deportation. 

In the past year, other undocumented immigrants in Arizona have left sanctuary for various reasons.

Under President Obama’s Executive Action priorities for removal are those who pose a national security threat, have a prior felony or are affiliated with a gang.

Robles is not eligible under the President’s program that protects parents of U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents. She said does hope her Mexico born children will be granted relief under the expansion of DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

A federal judge has temporarily stalled these programs pending a lawsuit against the Obama administration by more than 20 states.