Nearly a week after a request to remove a deportation order was denied, Rose Imelda Robles Loreto continues to live in a Tucson church while support for her cause grows.

Loreto, a native of Mexico who has lived in Tucson since 1999, took refuge Aug. 7 at Southside Presbyterian Church to avoid deportation.

U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement said Friday it stands on its statement from Monday following review of her case, that while the agency won't take her into custody and act immediately on her removal order, it will deny her stay of removal request.

That means Loreto, 41, could leave the church but has no guarantee she won't be deported.

“Essentially, they've said they won't deport her but won't give her a stay,” said her attorney, Margo Cowan. “It doesn't make any sense. They won't deport her but they won't protect her. I think that's shameful.”

It's the same response ICE had for Daniel Neyoy Ruiz before he sought sanctuary at the same church earlier this year, said the Rev. Alison Harrington, a pastor at Southside. He stayed 25 days until his deportation order was lifted.

“Basically, they've said to us, and her lawyer, that they're not granting her a stay but that she's not a priority and that they will not come to her house or come after her.”

But she is undocumented, and if she were to drive to her son's baseball game, get stopped by police for a minor infraction, like not signaling for a turn, a background check might not show ICE's press statement but an active order of deportation, Harrington said.

“She'll be over the border, missing her sweet boys. This doesn't change anything. It's not surprising but it is disheartening.”

The church and other Loreto supporters are asking ICE to reconsider its decision as it eventually did with Daniel.

Growing support

Harrington created a link on, a faith-based, social justice website that advocates action on issues including the recent shooting in Ferguson, Mo., hate crimes against religious groups and race, as well as immigration-related matters.

More than 3,250 have signed a website petition asking President Obama, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and his department to close Loreto's case, “because Rosa is not alone, because there are millions in her situation,” Harrington said.

“We're encouraging churches, who're getting fired up about asking about granting sanctuary for people like Rosa.”

Officials and members from other churches have stopped by Southside to visit Loreto, bringing comfort, and her family is often there for dinner after the boys' ball games. At ages 8 and 11, they're not old enough to apply for deferred action, so aren't in any danger, Harrington said.

Some Green Valley and Amado residents are among those pushing for it, as evidenced by a visit to Southside last week by the Rev. Matthew Crary and members of the Santa Rita Choral from Amado's Unitarian Universalist Congregation. That church has also launched a website to bolster Loreto and other supporters.

'Whatever it takes'

Southside is prepared to house her indefinitely, Harrington said.

“We'll do what it takes, as long as it takes. If you saw those boys, they're just amazing. I can't imagine what it'd be like to have their mother separated from them, they're such precious kids. We're not asking something (of ICE) they don't do everyday.”

Cowan said she thinks it's just a matter of time before federal officials will see that's the right thing to do.

“There's no reason in the world why they shouldn't approve that application right now.”

For 15 years, Loreto has lived in the Tucson area, where she, found work, bought a home, pays taxes and is raising a family. She and her husband, Gerardo, also in the U.S. illegally and overseeing his own deportation case, first came in 1999, fearful of the increasing violence in their home of Hermosillo. They returned to Mexico for three years to start a family, then came back and settled down. Gerardo got work in landscaping and helps coach their sons in Little League. Rosa worked as a maid after coming to the U.S.; at home she was the equivalent of a CPA.

Kitty Bottemiller | 547-9732