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Undocumented Mother Of Two Granted Sanctuary In Columbus Church

Edith Espinal speaks to an audience at Columbus Mennonite Church.
Adora Namigadde
Edith Espinal speaks to an audience at Columbus Mennonite Church.

The same day the Trump administration announced the end of the DACA program, ending protections for many young immigrants, the Columbus Mennonite Church announced it would grant sanctuary to a local mother facing deportation.

Edith Espinal, who was due for deportation Tuesday, is the first person to be publicly granted sanctuary in Columbus. Espinal has two children who are U.S. citizens.

The Columbus Mennonite Church administration voted unanimously last week to provide her sanctuary, converting a room in the church's children’s wing into a bedroom and installing a shower. 

According to Faith in Public Life representative and St. John’s Church Reverend Dan Clark, Espinal wears a GPS tracker given to her by ICE.

“My understanding is she came on what’s called advanced parole to give her time to apply for asylum, and those applications have not given her asylum," Clark said. "So she has been here legally, and then her status changed.”

At a press event on Tuesday morning, Espinal said through a translator that she’s fighting to stay in the U.S. because she doesn’t want to leave her children behind.

“I don’t want to leave this country," Espinal said. "I’ve been here more than 10 years in Columbus, OH. My daughter Stephanie was born here in Ohio."

The church is not sure how much hosting Espinal will cost and is actively fundraising. 

Sanctuary cities, which have been condemned by the Justice Department and Trump administration, traditionally ban immigration raids and refuse to supply immigration status information to Immigration Customs and Enforcement. A bill in the Ohio Statehouse would hold sanctuary cities and officials criminally and civilly liable for crimes committed by undocumented immigrants.

Mayor Andrew Ginther said in a January executive order that Columbus “will not arrest, detain or investigate anyone for immigration violations unless a warrant or criminal violation was observed.” That policy does not qualify the city to be a sanctuary city, however, and neither the Columbus Police nor county sheriff's office apprehended people based solely on their immigration status.

Columbus City Council member Elizabeth Brown previously saidshe would unveil a legal defense fund for immigrants facing deportation, as well as DACA recipients, in September.

Adora Namigadde was a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. She joined WOSU News in February 2017. A Michigan native, she graduated from Wayne State University with a B.A. in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in French.