Women in sanctuary team up to ask for support

DENVER -- Four women in Colorado launched a campaign to ask lawmakers for help on their immigration cases.

Each one is undocumented and living inside of a Colorado church to avoid deportation.

Sunday marked eight months since Araceli Velazquez-Ramirez entered sanctuary in a Denver church.

Velazquez-Ramirez is considered an immigration fugitive by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

She said she fled El Salvador in 2010 to get away from violence and asked for asylum when she entered the U.S. illegally.

Velazquez-Ramirez said her request for asylum was denied. ICE does not comment on asylum requests.

But the agency said a federal immigration judge ordered her removal in February 2013. Velazquez-Ramirez appealed and that was denied.

ICE granted her three stays of removal totaling more than two years. The benefit allowed her to stay in the U.S. without being deported.

In July, the last request for a stay was denied. Velazquez-Ramirez did not appear for an ICE check-in appointment in August.

In a statement, ICE made clear she has “exhausted her appeals and petitions through the immigration courts, and through ICE.”

For the past eight months, Velazquez-Ramirez has lived in the basement of Park Hill United Methodist Church with her three young boys, her husband and her dog.

She said the same place that has offered her family peace of mind can sometimes feel like a prison.

“For me, it’s been hard. I have not met my son’s teachers. I missed my son’s first day of school. I can’t go to the doctor with my kids when they are sick,” Velazquez-Ramirez said.

Velazquez-Ramirez said she was surprised by ICE’s decision last summer because she said she has a clean record.

Meanwhile , she has teamed up with the three other undocumented immigrant women in similar situations living out their lives in a other Colorado churches.

They have launched an online campaign to call on lawmakers and communities to help reopen their immigration cases and give them the opportunity to fight to stay in the country where many of them have started families.

“I will wait the necessary time. The important thing is that I’m with my family,” Velazquez-Ramirez said.

She hopes to get enough support to reopen her immigration case.