On Monday, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet met with Rosa Sabido, a Cortez resident from Mexico who has been living in sanctuary at the Mancos United Methodist Church since June 2017.
“I told him my story, and he was very open and friendly,” Sabido said of the 15-minute private meeting on an outdoor church patio.
The former church secretary has lived in Montezuma County for 32 years after moving to the U.S. with her mother.
She fought for decades to gain residency but has not been successful. When threatened with deportation, the church community offered her sanctuary, and she has been living there ever since advocating for her case and immigration reform.
Sabido has been reaching out to legislators in the hope they will introduce a private immigration bill in Congress that would grant her residency status.
From there she could continue the application process toward citizenship.
Sabido said Bennet, a Democrat, did not commit to a private immigration bill during the meeting, and she said the focus of the meeting was for her to share her story.
“It was nice to talk with him in person. He listened and asked about me and my family. Bennet has been helpful in my case in the past, and we’ve kept in touch,” she said.
Sabido said she is waiting until after the November election before seeking a private immigration bill.
“It is so divisive right now in Congress, where bills are stopped before they have a chance to go anywhere,” she said.
In February, supporters delivered a petition organized by Rosa Belongs Here and signed by 2,750 people to Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, asking him to introduce a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives that would provide a legal path for Sabido to stay in the country.
Tipton’s office declined the request.
Joshua Green, chief of staff for Tipton, said after conversations with the House committee that handles private bills, Tipton’s office determined that a private bill would not work in the House “because the case does not meet the committee’s criteria for private bills.”
The pandemic has changed Sabido’s life as well. Regular activities at the church with supporters have ended. There no longer are shared meals, and meetings are all held online or by phone.
She now fears contracting COVID-19 and needing hospital care. If she leaves the church grounds, she is at risk for deportation.
On Monday, she and her lawyer filed for an emergency stay of removal with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in case she needs hospitalization.
An emergency stay would allow Sabido to leave the church sanctuary grounds specifically for hospital care and not be subject to deportation.
“I am keeping the faith and staying positive, but the thought of getting sick and having to leave the sanctuary to take care of myself is very stressful,” she said.