‘We can talk about these issues, intellectualize, but to see, actually see…’
(Joshua Paladino, Liberty Headlines) Rosa Gutierrez Lopez, an illegal alien and Salvadoran national, spent her second Christmas at Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church, where she has dodged law enforcement since 2018.
The Unitarian church has provided shelter for Lopez, 41, because Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers will not arrest illegal aliens at sensitive locations, including schools and churches, SF Gate reported.
The Church World Service, a global nonprofit, reports that 49 illegal aliens have found refuge in churches throughout America.
A court issued a final deportation order for Lopez that was scheduled to be carried out on Dec. 10, 2018, but she decided to become a fugitive from the law.
Lopez said she has not left the six-acre church sanctuary since she arrived a few days before her scheduled deportation.
She said her relatives have died due to gang violence in El Salvador, so she hopes to avoid returning to her nation of citizenship.
Senior Minister Abhi Janamanchi encouraged the church’s 1,000 members to practice the “fragile art of hospitality,” and more than 200 members have stepped up to care for Lopez.
“It has been an adjustment—both for Rosa and for the community,” Janamanchi said. “We can talk about these issues, intellectualize, but to see, actually see… It does change us.”
Lopez has three children, aged 7, 10 and 12, who attend local schools. They were born in the United States, so they received birthright citizenship.
Officials at the church have asked ICE to delay her deportation order, but ICE insists that she must submit an application for deferral in person. But if Lopez leaves the church, then she would be subject to arrest and deportation.
Lopez, with the aid of the church and nonprofit groups, will continue to seek legal asylum in the United States.