(Updated on Friday, June 19 at 7:40 a.m.):
Daniel Neyoy-Ruiz—a father and husband who left sanctuary at Southside Presbyterian Church last year after getting a one-year stay from Immigration and Customs Enforcement—received a one-year extension of his deportation relief, and will leave sanctuary at First Christian Church as soon as he has the paperwork at hand, which should be Friday morning, according to various sources.
The stay from 2014 expired June 9. The next day, Neyoy-Ruiz quietly moved into sanctuary for fear of once again possibly facing removal. This time he was received at First Christian Church, because Rosa Robles-Loreto has also been living in sanctuary at Southside for nearly 10 months now.
"At first I felt nervous because I didn't know what would happen, I feel beyond happy, like the first time I was given this permission. I will be calm for another year, but I hope soon, they'll resolve or completely close my case," he says after a celebratory ceremony Thursday afternoon at First Christian. "Still, I'm going to keep fighting with Rosa and help others who need sanctuary. They don't know, and I have to tell them that this is an option."
Like Robles Loreto, Neyoy-Ruiz is not a priority for removal per ICE policies, but the agency isn't known for following through with some of its own rules. When President Obama issued several immigration executive actions this past November, he also reassured that undocumented people who aren't felons or threaten national security should not be at the top of the deportation list.
“After conducting another review of Mr. Neyoy-Ruiz’s immigration case, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has granted Mr. Neyoy-Ruiz an additional one-year stay of removal. At the end of that period, ICE will re-evaluate the case to determine the appropriate next steps," says Yasmeen Pitts O'keefe, ICE's spokeswoman. "ICE exercises prosecutorial discretion on a case-by-case basis, considering the totality of an individual’s case, including but not limited to criminal history, immigration history, family and community ties, humanitarian issues and whether he or she is likely to receive temporary or permanent status or other relief from removal."
Neyoy Ruiz and his wife Karla came to Tucson from Mexico 15 years ago. Their son, Carlos, who just graduated from middle-school, is a U.S. citizen, making Neyoy-Ruiz eligible for Obama's Deferred Action for Parents program—a work permit and permission to stay in the U.S. for three years with a chance to re-apply. However, in February, a federal judge in Texas blocked DAPA and an extension to DACA, a similar program but for undocumented immigrants brought here as children.
When he left sanctuary last year, his plans were to apply for DAPA. During this year, he also tried to renew his work permit, but he says it was rejected. Officials asked him to re-apply at a cost of $400. He lost his job as a result and has been searching for daily construction gigs to get by.
"I don't wish this fear on anyone, but they should be focusing their attention on people who have committed serious crimes, I don't even think they read our cases, all they see is an alien number, but that number has a heart, has a family, it's a person," he says.
This is the first time First Christian Church housed a sanctuary case since the movement recently emerged again. The church, along with Southside and several other congregations, was also part of the Sanctuary Movement in the 1980s, a response to an influx of Central Americans fleeing their civil-war-stricken countries at the time. Local Quaker congregation, the Pima Monthly Meeting, is partnering with the church to help Neyoy-Ruiz and his family in any way they can.
"It's a tragedy, this is something that affects our community," says First Christian's pastor Ailsa Guardiola Gonzalez. "Being a strong community, a community of support of love for families, those opportunities are being stolen and it affects all of us."
Now, Neyoy-Ruiz hopes DACA will be unblocked, so he has a more solid path to permanently have permission to stay in the country.
His son is getting ready to start high school in the fall as a member of the football team, and Neyoy-Ruiz doesn't want to miss a thing.
His departure from sanctuary is bittersweet, though. When he thinks of Robles Loreto, he wonders why she's been away for nearly one year.
"They need to look at our accomplishments, what we bring to this country. We aren't here to steal, we aren't here to do bad things, we are here to fight for our families, to work hard from dusk until dawn," he says. "I tell her to be strong, to not give up. God is good and something has to happen soon."