With America's immigration policy already shifting in the first weeks of the Biden administration, Representative Joe Neguse is asking the president to grant relief from deportation to Coloradans living in sanctuary.
"We write to express our support for sanctuary families living in houses of worship throughout Colorado," Neguse, a Democratic congressman from Lafayette, wrote in a January 29 letter co-signed by the Democrats in Colorado's congressional delegation. "We believe you should use your legal authority to lift the deportation orders against Colorado’s sanctuary leaders — Ingrid Encalada LaTorre, Jeanette Vizguerra-Ramirez, Rosa Sabido, Sandra Lopez and Arturo Hernandez Garcia — and exercise favorable discretion to grant stays of removal for these individuals so that they can keep their families intact and be reunited with their neighbors and communities while Congress works with your administration on comprehensive immigration reform."
The five individuals listed by Neguse have been living in sanctuary in Colorado churches over the past few years, to avoid deportation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
"I am grateful to Representative Neguse for taking the initiative to write this letter, and still there is more to be done. I will continue to work with Neguse so that we can make sure some type of legislation is passed that provides concrete relief," says Jeanette Vizguerra-Ramirez, a mother, grandmother and prominent immigrant-rights activist who lives in a Denver church.
Encalada LaTorre is now living in a Boulder church, while Sabido calls a church in Mancos home. Lopez and Hernandez Garcia had both taken sanctuary in Colorado churches, although Neguse's letter does not make clear where they are currently living.
At various points, ICE, which declined to comment on Neguse's request, had sought to detain all five for potential deportation, citing issues with immigration status, past convictions or a combination of both.
In late 2019, Encalada LaTorre, the subject of a recent Westword cover story, received a pardon from Governor Jared Polis related to a past guilty plea for felony criminal impersonation stemming from her use of someone else's Social Security number.
"Ingrid completed her terms of service, including restitution fees and back taxes, as well as started a public campaign called No Mas Chuecos to educate and inform others of the consequences of using false documents," wrote Neguse, who periodically visits Encalada LaTorre at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Boulder.
However, ICE still has a final order of removal for Encalada LaTorre, which is why she remains in sanctuary.
The Biden administration has promised sweeping changes to America's immigration policy, and has already taken action on a few key issues. The president recently instituted a partial 100-day deportation moratorium, which is currently being challenged by the Texas Attorney General. The Biden administration also appears poised to issue new discretionary practices for ICE, so that the agency focuses primarily on individuals with more serious criminal convictions.
Biden has said he also hopes to pass comprehensive immigration reform to give a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants who call the United States home.