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Mexican immigrant takes sanctuary in western Colorado church

Immigration activist Sandra Lopez addresses the crowd at the Sandra Stay press conference on Tuesday, Oct. 24, in Carbondale. Lopez has taken sanctuary at Carbondale’s Two River Unitarian Universalist church.

CARBONDALE — A Mexican immigrant and activist who has lived in western Colorado for 16 years has taken refuge in a church to avoid deportation.

Sandra Lopez of Silt moved into Two Rivers Unitarian Universalist Church in Carbondale with her 2-year-old daughter last week after immigration officials denied her request to delay deportation. Lopez, who also has two older children, is the fifth immigrant living in the country illegally to seek sanctuary in a Colorado house of worship this year.

The Glenwood Springs Post Independent reported Tuesday that Lopez has been facing possible deportation since 2010 after she was arrested for alleged criminal mischief, a misdemeanor. Court records show the case was quickly dropped.

Lopez says she was arrested after one of her children mistakenly called 911 and hung up.

Immigrants and their supporters from across Colorado gathered at the Mancos United Methodist Church on Saturday to show solidarity with those at risk of deportation. The event was organized by the American Friends Service Committee, a national Quaker organization.

They held a public event on Saturday at the Methodist Church, where Cortez resident Rosa Sabido has been in sanctuary since June to avoid being deported to Mexico after her request for a stay of deportation was denied by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials. Jennifer Piper, the American Friends interfaith organizing director, acted as a translator during question-and-answer sessions with Elmer Peña, who is in sanctuary at the All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church in Colorado Springs, and Araceli Velasquez, who is living at Park Hill United Methodist Church and Temple Micah in Denver. Like Sabido, they claimed sanctuary in churches after their legal avenues for remaining in the U.S., such as stays of deportation, ran out earlier this year.

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