Woman facing deportation finds sanctuary in Greensboro church
Posted June 29
Greensboro, N.C. — 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.