For 461 consecutive nights Rosa Robles Loreto, seeking sanctuary inside Southside Presbyterian Church, joined supporters in prayers for freedom, for safety, and to change America’s broken immigration system.
On Tuesday they gathered once again, but this time for the final prayer vigil. The wife and mother of two young boys, who has become a faith-filled voice of the new sanctuary movement, walked free from Southside Church in Tucson, Arizona, Wednesday morning.
Rosa entered the doors of the church on August 7, 2014, when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement entered a final order of deportation against her. The baseball mom had lived peacefully in the U.S. since 1999. She was not ready to leave her family behind.
Instead she chose safety at Southside, the birthplace of providing refuge through sanctuary.
For 461 days, Rosa and others pled with the U.S. government to grant her relief. For 461 days, Rosa and the congregation at Southside shared her story and gained support from Tucson, Arizona, to Loreto, Kentucky, to the halls of Congress in Washington, D.C.
For 461 days Rosa cooked her family’s meals in the church kitchen and spent nights sleeping in a Sunday school room. And most importantly, for 461 days, Rosa and members of the Tucson faith community gathered every evening and prayed—for Rosa, families like Rosa’s, and for our nation’s leaders.
Rosa has finally left sanctuary. She is home, where she has been assured she can raise her family free of looming deportation. God has answered the prayers of the last 461 days.
Friends, I ask you, what more can we accomplish over the next 461 days? As followers of Christ we are called to proclaim the good news to the poor, free the prisoners, and set the captives free. The urgency of Rosa’s situation has abated, but the crisis remains for so many more.
Eleven million members of our community are at risk of deportation, just like Rosa. There is no bill in Congress on the verge of granting relief. The Obama administration’s announcement for expanded deferral of deportation is held captive in the courts. Meanwhile, 18 billion is spent each year on enforcement, all too often, against beloved community members and families like Rosa’s.
I invite you to pull yourself from despair and imagine what more we can collectively accomplish if we commit 461 days to relationship building, hosting legal clinics, accompanying people like Rosa in immigration court, advocating to people in power for meaningful change in our nation’s immigration laws, and, most importantly, praying—for Rosa, families like Rosa’s, and our nation’s leaders.
Our system is broken and hearts have hardened, but we know our call and we now know what can happen in 461 days.
Learn more at pcusa.org/sanctuary