A coalition of local congregations is partnering to give a Greensboro resident sanctuary from deportation.
Rosa del Carmen Ortez-Cruz recently took sanctuary at the Church of Reconciliation in Chapel Hill, which is also the meeting site for the Chapel Hill Mennonite Fellowship, according to a release from church leaders.
The sanctuary announcement comes after several Orange County residents were detained by federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents last week. The ICE raids have caused panic and fear in the local immigrant community.
Church leaders said on Tuesday that they were working to launch a sanctuary coalition across North Carolina. Churches have remained locations that ICE will not enter in an effort to detain an individual.
“This is an act of conscience and resistance, to protect Rosa from the very real threat of deportation,” Church of Reconciliation pastor Reverend Mark Davidson said in a release. “Our Christian faith calls us to welcome the stranger and to offer hospitality to those in need as if we are offering it to Christ.”
While this is the first documented instance of a Chapel Hill church offering sanctuary to an individual facing deportation, the churches cite six other cases across North Carolina.
Ortez-Cruz is facing deportation to Honduras after she said she fled a dangerous domestic violence situation. She fled to the United States in 2002 and is a mother to four children, three of whom are US citizens.
“I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to be far from my children.” said Ortez-Cruz. “But I have no choice because going back to Honduras is not an option. If I go there, it could mean the end of my life. He said ‘if you won’t be with me, you won’t be with anyone.’”
Advocates are using this opportunity to call on local Congress members to work to allow her to stay in the US.
“We’re calling for action from our elected officials but we also know we cannot sit by and wait for politicians to act while unjust immigration policies tear apart our communities,” director of the American Friends Service Committee’s NC Immigrant Rights Program Lori Fernald Khamala said in a release. “That’s why we are also calling on churches and other places of worship throughout the state to join us in pledging to offer sanctuary to all who need it.”
Congregation members said they hope this action will spur other churches to follow suit.
“Our faith is nothing if we do not actively practice solidarity with those who are being denied justice,” Chapel Hill Mennonite Fellowship member Xaris A. Martínez said. “We commit to accompany Rosa and hope that other congregations in our state and throughout the nation will consider opening their doors and hearts to those most at risk in their communities.”
Photo via Stef Bernal-Martinez