Rosa Robles Loreto in the Southside Presbyterian Church with her family: She is with her husband, Gerardo, and sons Gerardo, 11, left, and Jose Emiliano, 8. She faces deportation to Mexico by Friday if her legal status is not resolved. 

A.E. Araiza / Arizona Daily Star

Southside Presbyterian Church — the birthplace for the Sanctuary Movement of the 1980s — is offering refuge to a second person this year facing deportation.

Rosa Robles Loreto, 40, is expected to move into the church this evening and stay there until her case is resolved by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.

Robles Loreto’s immigration troubles began in September 2010 after a traffic violation on the northwest side as she was going to work to clean houses. A Pima County sheriff’s deputy called the Border Patrol after she admitted she was here illegally.

Robles Loreto, who was in custody for two months and is out on a $3,000 bond, faces a deportation order Friday.

Amber Cargile, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman based in Phoenix, could not be reached for comment on Robles Loreto’s case.

An immigration application to allow Robles Loreto to remain was filed Wednesday with Department of Homeland Security officials by Southside pastor Alison Harrington and John Fife. Fife is a former pastor of the church and co-founder of the underground Sanctuary Movement, which aided Central Americans who said they were fleeing their countries because of religious and political persecution.

On Friday, attorney Margo Cowan will make a formal request to an ICE attorney to reopen Robles Loreto’s removal proceeding “for the purpose of administratively closing the case” and allow Robles Loreto to stay in this country with her family and obtain a work permit.

The same was done for Daniel Neyoy Ruiz — the first person who sought sanctuary at Southside in May. Neyoy Ruiz was given a stay of deportation in June.

Like Neyoy Ruiz, Robles Loreto is a “low priority” for deportation. She has no criminal record, poses no safety threat and has roots in Tucson, said Sarah Launius, who with Cowan and other volunteers provide free immigration services through a church-based legal clinic.

The government has used prosecutorial discretion to close 31,178 cases similar to Robles Loreto’s and Neyoy Ruiz’s between November 2011 and March 27, 2014, according to the Executive Office for Immigration Review in the U.S. Department of Justice.

“President Obama has said on numerous occasions that people like Rosa should not be deported, and their families should not be torn apart,” Cowan said. “Until the government assures us that Rosa will be safe with her family, she will remain here (in the church).”

“We feel tranquil, and we came to this decision with a lot of faith in God that all of us will be allowed to stay here,” Rosa Robles Loreto said.

Rosa’s husband, Gerardo Grijalva, 40, and their two sons, Gerardo,11, and Jose Emiliano, 8, will join Rosa in a show of support. However, they can leave the church. Gerardo will go to his construction job, and the boys will leave to attend school in the Sunnyside Unified School District.

To this point, they mostly have lived hidden from the scope of immigration officials. In 2012, Gerardo also was held during a traffic stop by a deputy, and then detained by federal authorities for 19 days for being in the country illegally. He also is out on a $3,000 bond and has a court date next June.

Gerardo Grijalva said he first came to Tucson in 2006 and found work as a construction laborer, and his wife and sons, a toddler and infant, soon followed. They all entered the country with their visas and did not return to their home in Hermosillo, Sonora.

The couple came in search of the American dream — like millions of immigrants — because they wanted better for their sons, explained Gerardo. “Our home was broken into three times by violent robbers. The economy was not thriving. I worked in a convenience store as a clerk and did odd jobs in construction,” he said.

Rosa, a telemarketer and bank teller, said their monthly take-home pay totaled $450, scraping to pay their mortgage and feed and clothe themselves and their sons.

“We left our family and relatives, which hurts us, but we had no tranquillity or felt safe in Mexico because of robbers and thugs,” Gerardo said. “We want to remain here and be allowed to work and give back to this country.”

Rosa added: “The United States is providing us with what Mexico did not. Here we feel safe. We can work hard and offer our sons a better life. President Obama is a father with two daughters. I am a mother with two sons. I want to provide my sons with a good life and future, just like President Obama’s desires for his daughters.

“I don’t want to be another number in a deportation proceeding,” Rosa said.

The couple, who have relatives in Tucson, now have a mobile home they bought for $1,700 and are refurbishing. They own a 1992 Chevy pickup, and their monthly take-home pay is $2,600. Their boys, who are bilingual, like school and love playing baseball.

Harrington said the church “has a long history of Christian hospitality, and offers sanctuary to those in need,” adding that the congregation runs a day-labor program and a homeless program at the church.

“Because our elected officials are failing to resolve immigration reform, more churches will come forth and offer sanctuary. We are seeing in Tucson, Denver and Chicago families being torn apart because of deportations, and churches are feeling compelled to act to keep these families together through sanctuary,” Harrington said.

“There is a movement growing in the faith community as Congress fails to pass immigration reform. These churches do not want to stand by and watch families suffer.”

Contact reporter Carmen Duarte at or 573-4104.