Local News

Woman facing deportation finds sanctuary in Greensboro church

Posted June 29

— A Mexican immigrant ordered to leave the U.S. by Friday has found sanctuary at a Greensboro church.

Minerva Cisneros Garcia came to the U.S. 17 years ago to find a school for her blind son, Eduardo, who was 5 at the time.

"I was seeking for security and education for my son," Cisneros Garcia said Thursday. "Eduardo would have less opportunity than what he has here. If you are disabled, they don’t treat you as a person with feelings (in Mexico)."

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement had always allowed her to stay in Winston-Salem because of Eduardo's needs. But at a recent yearly check-in, she was ordered to leave the country by June 30.

"He's still my baby. (I'm) still making sure he's safe," she said.

So, she has moved into the Congregational United Church of Christ in Greensboro with her two younger sons, Antonio, 6, and Matteo, 3 – both U.S. citizens. She hopes to stay there until ICE reverses its decision.

ICE has a policy that prohibits agents from making arrests at sensitive locations, such as churches and schools.

Rev. Julie Peeples, pastor of Congregational UCC, said authorities "are fully aware" Cisneros Garcia is in the church.

"We are not hiding her. We are offering her sanctuary, a safe place until she can receive due process," Peeples said. "She is a woman of courage and strength."

Cisneros Garcia has no criminal record, and she has become part of the community while working and raising her boys in Winston-Salem.

"In these circumstances, we have no choice but to fix our gaze on the truth of God that supersedes U.S. law," said Rev. Craig Schaub, pastor of Parkway United Church of Christ in Winston-Salem.

Supporters have gathered more than 12,000 signatures on a petition seeking a stay of the deportation order that they plan to present to ICE and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. They also are lobbying U.S. Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis on Cisneros Garcia's behalf.

"I’m not asking for nothing else, just an opportunity to live here, show them that I’m not a bad person," she said.

ICE spokesman Brian Cox declined to discuss Cisneros Garcia's case, but he said the policy of not making arrests in sensitive locations doesn't vacate a deportation order.

Eduardo, who is now 21 and living in his own home, is allowed to remain in the U.S. through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows people brought illegally into the U.S. to work and study here without fear of deportation.

"It’s frustrating, watching, listening Mom go through all this mess," he said. "I hope ICE finds it in their heart to leave her here, let her stay here."

Cisneros Garcia is the second person facing deportation to seek sanctuary in a North Carolina church. Last month, Juana Ortega, a grandmother from Guatemala, moved into St. Baranbas Episcopal Church in Greensboro, and she remains there as she seeks a stay of her deportation order.

"Sanctuary is a measure of last resort," Peeples said, noting members of her congregation discussed and prayed for months before deciding to open the doors to their church to people in need like Cisneros Garcia.

"Faith calls for us to do the right thing," Peeples said.


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  • Jill Stephenson Jun 30, 12:42 p.m.
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    If churches are going to protect illegal immigrants, then they should have to pay taxes.
    Churches are becoming too worldly, seems churches have no problem breaking laws and that is not how the Bible teaches, we as Christians, keep the laws to honor God.

  • Henry Davis Jun 30, 12:21 p.m.
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    she has been here for 17 years, she needs to be sent back th mexico and and quit milking our system.

  • Patrick Gentry Jun 30, 9:51 a.m.
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    What's mind blowing to me is ICEs policy to not arrest people in churches and schools. I mean no other law enforcement agency has it's hands tied like that.

    Plus it just encourages more lawlessness, now I could understand an embassy or consulate, that's a place where someone could seek refuge from US law enforcement because it's sovereign soil, like what Julian Assange did.

    Than again I don't think their is a Mexican Consulate has in Greensboro. Still it's crazy, I mean I know people get silly over immigration, but this is taking political correctness too far. Enforce the law, allow people to flaunt it even further is outrageous.

    It's bad enough she has been allowed by ICE to stay here illegally for almost 2 decades.

  • W. Clifton Barnes Jun 30, 12:37 a.m.
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    John Donnee, nearly all illegal immigrants don't make enough money to pay federal taxes. Half of Americans don't even make enough to pay taxes. Do you really think houses wouldn't get built if not for illegal labor? Do you think "Latin" workers have been to trade schools in their countries? Does this woman or her son build houses? Do you think people who were able to have children on American soil should get preferential treatment over those who didn't or couldn't? Should someone who came here five years ago get preferential treatment over someone who came four years ago? Do you also believe that someone who committed other offenses more than five years ago should get away with it? And remember, there are no jobs in America that are majority illegal immigrant. http://cis.org/are-there-really-jobs-americans-wont-do

  • John Donnee Jun 29, 10:22 p.m.
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    Although I am in favor of immigration reform, if someone came here illegally more than five years ago or has a child born here, I want them out of the black closet and paying taxes. We need a system where we give these people a yellow card with a ten year path to citizenship. My house would not have been built without Latin workers. We did away with out trade schools thirty years ago and created our own problem.

  • Jeffrey Derry Jun 29, 10:16 p.m.
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    She is defying a federal judges order ...crime on top of crime ....leave

  • Jeffrey Derry Jun 29, 10:13 p.m.
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    We are a country of laws not emotions #deport never screened for communicable diseases broke our laws you have no right to violate a sovereign countries borders stop pandering #wral

  • Thomas Williams Jun 29, 9:44 p.m.
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    Its got nothing to do with whether she is a bad person or not, as she puts it. It is a matter of whether she is here legally or not. The church here is treading on thin ice. Yes, the church should help those in need, but it shouldn't go against what civil law dictates. The Word also says that believers should obey the law of the land as well as treat outsiders as neighbors. It is a thin line here, but I think a church that offers sanctuary is getting off the path. Suppose more and more come for sanctuary, what then? Are they prepared to offer it to hundreds? The may set a precedent here that is a dangerous one. If they get into the business of offering sanctuary they may be opening a can of worms that they haven't considered.