TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) – An immigrant woman who has spent the past 15 months living in a small Tucson church to avoid deportation is going back to her home in Arizona and will be allowed to remain in this country, her lawyer said Wednesday.
Rosa Robles Loreto will stay in the U.S. under an agreement that will be kept confidential, said her attorney, Margo Cowan, refusing to release details.
Robles Loreto, 42, was the last remaining immigrant to live in a church during a year that saw an active sanctuary movement. Immigrants looking to avoid deportation also sought refuge in Portland, Oregon, Denver, Austin, Texas, and Phoenix.
There is no rule under federal law that prohibits agents from arresting immigrants in a church, but it's a practice the government generally avoids.
At a ceremony to mark her departure from Southside Presbyterian Church, an emotional Robles Loreto said Wednesday that she is elated and will keep fighting for immigrant rights.
"There is a great struggle for many people who are in my same situation," she said.
The Rev. Alison Harrington, who heads Southside Presbyterian, said wide community support helped Robles Loreto during the 462 days she spent at the church.
Tens of thousands of signs with a portrait of Robles Loreto, her husband and two sons were posted on lawns and on business windows around Tucson.
City and county leaders, congressional delegates and even celebrity Linda Ronstadt also lent their support.
"Courage is fear that has said its prayers and we are a courageous community that has said its prayers," Harrington said.
Robles Loreto was pulled over for a traffic infraction five years ago and turned over to the Border Patrol. Her attorney sought leniency and a stay of deportation to no avail before Robles Loreto sought sanctuary at the church.
U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement announced earlier this year that Robles Loreto was not a priority for deportation, but her attorney said it was still unsafe for her to leave the church.
The agency said Wednesday it would not comment on the case.
Sarah Launius, a spokeswoman for Robles Loreto, said, "We will pursue any additional avenues that are in Rosa's best interest, and we know today that she is completely safe to leave the church and return to a more typical life,"
Robles Loreto's case is unique in that her entire family is living in the U.S. illegally.
The government has granted leniency to immigrants whose children are U.S. citizens as part of President Barack Obama's policy to try to keep families together.
But families such as Robles Loreto's have been left out even though her two boys have lived in the U.S. their entire lives after being born in Mexico.
The boys could have benefited from an expansion of a program that aims to protect youths from deportation after they are brought to the U.S. illegally as children.
The expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals would have lowered the minimum age requirement, but it has been put on hold by a federal judge in Texas. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday upheld that ruling.
Southside Presbyterian has been offering sanctuary to immigrants since the 1980s, when a wave of Central Americans fled civil wars in their countries.