A presidential administration led by Democrat Joe Biden does not necessarily mean greater freedoms are in store for Rosa Sabido, who has lived in sanctuary in a Mancos church for more than three years.
Sabido was among the people living in sanctuary who signed and sent a petition to Biden, asking him to publicly commit to granting a stay of removal, or temporary postponement of deportation, to each person living in sanctuary on his first day in office.
The petition, organized by the Sanctuary Collective, also asked Biden to lift deportation orders against those in sanctuaries within his first 100 days in office, and to sign all private bills that grant paths to citizenship for people in sanctuary.
Already, Biden has promised to restore the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. It allows about 600,000 young immigrants who live in the U.S. illegally and were brought here as children to remain in the U.S. Although the program does not give legal status, it does give temporary protection from deportation and permission to work legally, similar to protections under DREAM Act proposals.
Opponents say the law rewards people for breaking the law, encourages illegal immigration and hurts U.S. workers.
Biden also has said he will send a comprehensive immigration bill to Congress within his first 100 days in office.
But Sabido is restrained in her expectations about the scope of change to immigration Biden’s administration will bring, especially with the urgency of the COVID-19 pandemic weighing on the incoming president.
“I’m cautiously optimistic,” she told The Journal. Biden has promised to reverse the Trump administration’s policies, “but I don’t know to what point,” Sabido said.
Sabido’s experienceHer doubt stems from 33 years of living in Montezuma County without obtaining legal citizenship, and not for lack of trying, she said. Even if Biden were successful in reversing executive orders from the Trump administration that forced her into sanctuary to avoid raids by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Sabido said she is skeptical of broader reform.
Her application for a one-year stay of removal was denied by ICE in June 2017. The former church secretary fought for decades after arriving from Mexico to gain permanent residency but has not been successful.
“I have been so hopeful in the past administrations that things will change, but they didn’t,” Sabido said. “That’s why I’m here.”
Reconstruction of the immigration system can’t be done through an executive order from the president alone, and Republicans in the Senate might not support reformative legislation.
Division over immigrationDespite Biden’s victory over President Donald Trump, anti-immigration sentiments in Montezuma County are not dissipating.
“I don’t feel safe for the next weeks until (Biden) takes office,” Sabido said.
She also is concerned Trump will pass more executive orders on immigration before January, when his term ends.
There is relief that comes with a Trump defeat, Sabido said, recalling the hundreds of immigrant children who are separated from their parents after arriving at the Mexico-U.S. border.
But there is still strong division, she said.
“What this country went through for four years was so painful and abusive,” she said. “I can’t believe it will be over soon.”
After Jan. 20, she plans to restart the long process of asking for support from Colorado congressional leaders with a private bill granting citizenship.
Rosa Belongs Here, a community organization helping Sabido in her effort to achieve permanent residency, delivered a petition signed by 2,750 people to U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, in February, asking him to introduce a bill in the House of Representatives that would provide a legal path for Sabido to stay in the U.S.
But nothing has come of the petition, and Tipton was defeated by Lauren Boebert in the Republican primary.
Boebert went on to win the general election, and given her criticism of Tipton for making it easier for immigrant farm workers to gain residency in Colorado through the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, she might not support Sabido in her attempt to gain citizenship.
The defeated Democratic candidate for the House, Diane Mitsch Bush, had promised to sponsor a bill for Sabido.
But Sabido continues to hold hope.
“I trust in people’s humanity,” she said.
Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., also has shown support for Sabido.
Mending misunderstandings Sabido said not all immigrants are criminals, as Trump has suggested.
“We are innocent people who do nothing but work,” she said.
There are many immigrants like Sabido who did not get married or have children to stay in the country, but tried to gain citizenship by working and applying for it, and yet she still has not gained citizenship, she said.
“We come to this country with this dream,” Sabido said, “and find so many things we don’t have in our countries.”
But that image of the U.S. has been lost under the Trump administration, she said.
“There’s a language of healing, and I think that’s the key word,” she said.
Those interested in supporting Sabido can help by participating in an online auction and fundraiser for Sabido’s legal citizenship efforts and to help pay bills she is still incurring on her house while in sanctuary.