About 200 marched from Washington Park in Denver to three overpasses on Interstate-25 to display their messages of support for those who have taken sanctuary in area churches. Two Denverites have taken sanctuary indefinitely in order to remain with their families under the threat of deportation.
Ingrid Encalada Latorre entered sanctuary at Mountain View Friends Meeting on November 28, 2016 and Jeanette Vizguerra entered First Unitarian Society of Denver last month on February 15. Both have completed application requirements and have made their court appearances with the hope of staying in the US.
“For over 30 years we have not passed one inclusive immigration law in the United States. The time of waiting, of family separation, of injustice and violence, must end,” said Encalada Latorre via a press release.
In 2000 Encalada Latorre came to the US from Peru. She has two young boys, aged 8 years and just over a year. Her youngest suffers from Torticollis, a condition in which the neck muscles contract, causing the head to lean to one side. The baby is currently undergoing physical therapy for the condition.
In 2010 she was arrested for using false papers. Through faulty legal advice, she pleaded guilty to identity theft not knowing that she was pleading guilty to a felony that would later threaten her ability to remain in the US.
She paid $11,500 to the Internal Revenue Service and completed her sentence of four years probation. The decision to reopen her case so that she could defend herself with better legal advice was in the hands of Jefferson County, but Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) denied her stay of removal request that would have enabled her to appear in court. The community feared that she could be arrested in court by ICE.
She was welcomed into Mountain View Friends Meeting and told the community before entering, “I am doing this not only to stop my own deportation but also to help raise awareness that there are thousands of others like me, people whose only offense was to work and pay into the social safety net and whose only desire is to live safely with our families.”
During the rally, a woman who identified herself as Adele told the crowd of the invisible pain and suffering from family separation that the general public may not know. In her case, she was forced to work extra jobs to feed her family when her husband was deported. Doing so began a chain of events which she described as “the dark period in our lives.”
Holding jobs meant that she was absent from home when her kids got out of school. One of her children began to isolate herself, and began self-mutilating, “We had to protect her from herself.” Those incidents resulted in multiple hospital trips, and she often felt herself choosing between getting to her second job, or staying at the hospital, “I couldn’t be two places at once.”
Adele said that the situation continued and then worsened when her daughter became suicidal, “There’s so much more to say about that dark period in our lives. I so need the support and comfort of my husband. No one who has not experienced this can really understand the depth of need we have for each other as family.”
Jeanette Vizguerra spoke to the crowd from sanctuary by phone, “I want to say to President Trump and our Congress that it’s time to say ‘yes’ to all immigrants from whichever part of the world whether Latino or Asian, African, Christian, Jewish, or Muslim. It is time to say yes. We need to push for reform.”
Vizguerra has been in the US for about 20 years working multiple jobs to provide for her three children. Two of her children appeared at the rally and have stood next to her through years of rallies, marches, and other appearances.
From sanctuary, Vizguerra worries about who will pick up her children from school, “What would become of them if I was deported? What I see is that when my children are with me they feel safe, and their grades and self-esteem improve. But because of the fear of separation, they have also received treatment for depression and anxiety. There are millions of children like them in the United States.”
Vizguerra was pulled over in 2009 for expired plates. The police officer asked her if she was, “Legal or illegal in this country.” Vizguerra was trained in her constitutional rights and refused to answer questions.
She said the officer searched her purse and found documents with a false Social Security number. In court she pleaded guilty to third-degree attempted possession of a forged instrument, a misdemeanor. “To many, this sounds like a serious charge, but what some might call criminal is a question of survival for most of the people who build your homes and keep them clean. You accept our labor but won’t provide the piece of paper that recognizes our equal humanity.”
She publicly fights her deportation and says that she wants to expose the unfairness of the system and to help others. She encourages others to raise awareness of their own cases.
In 2011 a judge denied Vizguerra’s Cancellation of Removal. Vizguerra said that the judge concluded that her family’s suffering would not be extreme nor unusual to be separated from her. She appealed.
While awaiting the appeals process she received word from Mexico in 2012 that her mother was on her deathbed. She tried to reach her mother in time, but her mother died before she could say goodbye.
In 2015 Vizguerra told The Nation Report that all she could think about was returning to her children. She trekked the mountains and desert of the southern US until she could no longer walk, “While in so much pain, all I could think about was getting back to my children.”
Border Patrol arrested her in Texas. Through a wide community support system, ICE released her with a stay of removal and order of supervision. The stay was renewed five times.
The sixth application for stay involved a scheduled “check-in” for February 15. After learning of President Trump’s actions against the immigrant community, Vizguerra’s intuition led her to enter sanctuary. The move was not without cause. Her attorney and the pastor of the First Unitarian Church reported that when they appeared to ICE for her check-in, agents were there, giving her attorney and pastor the impression that Vizguerra would have been arrested.
From sanctuary, Vizguerra released the statement, “The hateful and exclusionary rhetoric and policies hurt us all. I want to thank everyone who’s walking next to Ingrid and me. Ingrid [Encalada Latorre] needs you just as much as I do. She needs to go back home. I belong here. I want us to work together. This road will not be easy. But when we work together, organized, and with love, we will achieve many things. After paying taxes for two decades, spending thousands of dollars on my immigration case and fighting my deportation for eight years, I am not giving up now. I will stay here because it is my home. I will not leave.”
Nadeen Ibrahim who works to support Muslim community members impacted by deportation also addressed the crowd. Ibrahim said that she came to the US when she was seven months old becoming a citizen seven months before the 9/11 attack on the US. “We all come with different levels of nationality. Some of us are permanent residents. Some of us are undocumented. Some of us are citizens. And I think it’s really important for us to take a moment and really understand where it is we line up and how can we best serve those who don’t have the same privilege that we do. And for us US citizens, that means us voting. That means us putting the right people in office and that means us moving our politicians and demanding that they listen to the people.”
Ibrahim also spoke to false media coverage of immigrants while encouraging others to demand the humanization of immigrants from media outlets, “They pose them, as Donald Trump would say, as ‘criminals’, when in all reality these are people that are escaping violence from their native countries. These are people here that are seeking refuge. And these are people that are coming here for opportunities. And I think us as Americans should be able to welcome them and tell them you have the same opportunity that we do.”
“So that while some people say that we are a nation of immigrants, I like to say that actually we are a nation of immigrants and native people because we cannot forget that native people were here way before us.”
The rally marched from Washington park and held banners over I-25 on Washington, Louisiana, and Emerson Streets. Police forced the banner holders to lower them. The group complied, but continued to hold the banners as a group along walkways.