By Margie Thompson, ESCRIBANA

In honor of International Women’s Day 2018, four immigrant women in sanctuary in Colorado united their voices virtually via video in an historic encounter across the miles to launch the  People’s Resolution: Creating a Path Forward on Immigration on March 8, 2018. The petition demands action on immigration from the Colorado congressional delegation, the Colorado Legislature and Governor Hickenlooper.  The campaign will require support of elected officials, faith leaders and the community at large to succeed.

Ingrid Encalada Torres presents the People’s Resolution at the campaign launch in Boulder, CO

Rosa Sabido in Mancos, CO in a virtual event with the three other women in sanctuary in Colorado.

This was the first time that women in sanctuary had united via video and the internet as a team.  Living in sanctuary throughout the state, they are determined to fight against deportation to keep their families together and remain in their communities.  Through their experiences, each has become a strong leader, using their voices to call for change

Araceli Velasquez holding her son at a prayer ceremony in Denver before the virtual campaign launch

Sandra Lopez joins the virtual campaign launch from sanctuary in Carbondale, Colorado

“What we want is for Congress to take our voices into account and listen to us and take action,” declared Araceli Velasquez.  “…[We are doing this] so that other women and other families don’t have to sacrifice their freedom and liberty in order to keep their families together.”  Velasquez has lived in sanctuary in Denver with her three small children since August, 2017.

Ingrid Encalada Torres, a mother of two US citizen-born boys aged 2 and 9, lives in sanctuary in Boulder, Colorado.  At the March 8th event, she announced that “I going to commemorate this day as a woman and a mother.”  Ingrid, as a nationally known activist noted that the current immigration system is broken and said, “I want to resist the unjust laws.”

Current immigration policy bars a path to legal residency for all four women who represent thousands of immigrants in Colorado alone.  The women have complied with everything requested by immigration, short of deportation and have been active members of their communities.

Rosa Sabido has been in sanctuary in Mancos United Methodist Church since June 2, 2017 in Mancos, Colorado.  She likewise called for support for the People’s Resolution and urged those listening to reach out to their religious groups and communities to sign on.  She noted that the campaign asks that people take action within 3 months, and in June will be presented to state and federal officials.

“We’re inviting you to join with us on this very important International Women’s Day to support the resolution,” declared Sandra Lopez from sanctuary in Two Rivers Unitarian Universalist in Carbondale, located in the mountains of central Colorado. “We will not achieve passing [it] without the support of our friends and supporters here in sanctuary” as well as from communities beyond.

Lopez continued, “I have faith and sacrificing my freedom…gives me the opportunity to actively seek different options for my family.”  She saw the People’s Resolution Campaign as an opportunity for herself and the other women to use their voices to call for solutions to reform the broken immigration system.

Living in sanctuary is an enormous sacrifice for the women, who may never go outside for fear of getting arrested. The young children stay with their mothers, while the older ones go to school.  The women are completely dependent upon their families outside, as well as the congregations of their sanctuary space.

But all four have become strong leaders and activists, using their voices to call for change of unjust laws in a broken immigration system.  And they are determined to avoid deportation, which would divide and greatly harm their children and families.

Ingrid Encalada Torres has lived nearly half of her life in Colorado, arriving in the country when she was 17 years old. She was arrested for using false identification to work to feed her family, and later completed restitution and rehabilitation, but nonetheless received a deportation order.  Current law does not allow a path for legal status for Ingrid through her two young citizen children (ages 2 and 9 years) or citizen aunt, and also restricted the immigration judge from considering personal character in his decision on her case.  Ingrid lives in sanctuary in the Boulder Unitarian Universalist Church.

Araceli Velaszuez arrived in the US in 2010 seeking asylum, fleeing from death threats in her native El Salvador.  She now has  three young boys (aged 14 months to 4 years) who are US-born citizens. Her husband Jorge, also from El Salvador is fighting to keep his TPS (Temporary Protected Status, and also avoid deportion.  Ariceli’s application for asylum and a 2017 stay of deportation was denied, so rather than risk returning to the horrific violence in El Salvador, she sought refuge with her family.  She took sanctuary inside Park Hill United Methodist Church and Temple Micah synagogue on August 8, 2017.

Rosa Sabido has dedicated her nearly 30 years in southwest Colorado as a community leader while supporting her aging parents.  She has her own catering business and has served as secretary of the local Catholic Church in Manco. Both Rosa’s mother and stepfather are US citizens and Rosa has been waiting since 2001 to become a Lawful Permanent Resident as the approved beneficiary of her mother’s immigration petition. Rosa has completed the terms of ICE’s Order of Supervision between 2008 and 2017 and received Stays of Removal since 2011, but then was denied a stay last year.

Rosa has been waiting for 17 years to get permanent residency but current family-based visa number limits (quotas) set by Congress keep her approved petition in limbo, and may force her to wait another 10 years.

Sandra Lopez arrived in the US in nearly 20 years ago, fleeing the violence, government corruption and poverty of Chihuahua, Mexico. She has become an active member of her community in Carbondale, Colorado, in the Roaring Fork Valley in west central Colorado.  Sandra lives with her husband and three US citizen children, aged 2, 13 and 19 years. She was wrongfully arrested when her young child called 911 on a cellphone by mistake and hung up, and charges were later dropped.  But because of state law (since repealed), local sheriffs reported Sandra to ICE and she was later issued a deportation order.  Under current law, although she has lived in the country she is not allowed to apply for legal status through her minor citizen children, even though charges were dropped.

“It’s important that we call this what it is,” Lopez told the Post Independent/Citizen Telegram of Glenwood Springs/Rifle, CO. “I’m an undocumented mother, and that does not make us criminals. I’m just a mother, and I’m fighting for my family to be together.”