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Remaining In Sanctuary, Columbus Immigrant Edith Espinal Evades Deportation

Ohio Interfaith Immigrant and Migrant Justice Coalition
Edith Espinal, center, surrounded by her family members.

Edith Espinal, the first undocumented immigrant offered sanctuary by a church in Columbus, was scheduled to depart on Tuesday for Mexico, her country of origin. Instead, Espinal decided to remain in the U.S. and is asking that Ohio leaders visit and hear her story.

At her meeting last month with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Espinal was forced to purchase a plane ticket scheduled to leave Tuesday morning. As of Tuesday afternoon, Espinal remained in sanctuary at the Columbus Mennonite Church in Clintonville.

She said she will live there for months, or even years, until she's permitted to remain in the U.S. with her children, who are both citizens.

"How much time, I don't know, but whatever amount of time is necessary, as long as I'm with my kids," Epinal.

Churches are considered "sensitive locations" by ICE. According to their policy, they will not make arrests there unless approved to do so by a designated supervisor.

Espinal briefly left the church while she applied for a stay in her deportation, but when that was denied she returned to take sanctuary. The church converted a bedroom and installed a shower for Espinal in the church's children's wing.

Espinal is asking that Ohio Sens. Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown, as well as Gov. John Kasich, visit her to understand why she has taken sanctuary.

"The governor says immigrants are welcome here, and my family and I have been living here for 15 years," Espinal said.

In September, Kasich told CBS This Morning that DREAMers, the young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents as children, were welcome in Ohio.

"If the DREAMers want to go somewhere and live, come to Ohio," Kasich said. "We want all the immigrants to come to Ohio, we know how much immigrants contribute."

Brown has advocated for Congress to extend DACA protections and pass the DREAM Act, and Portman said he supports bipartisan efforts on DACA but wants stronger immigration enforcement.