‘It’s never been a secret’
A small army of volunteers from 13 congregations across Boulder County comes to the Unitarian church to help Encalada Latorre, said Mary Dineen, who co-chairs the church’s immigration advocacy organization, Sanctuary Now!
“We have 185 volunteers who have gone through a training,” Dineen said. “The training involves some education involving Ingrid’s situation as well as being prepared if ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) were to arrive.”
Dineen said that people living in the neighborhood around the church also have pitched in, along with others in the Boulder community. Volunteers ferry Encalada Latorre’s children to and from school, pick up groceries and do laundry.
“I think the strength of Ingrid is really incredible,” Dineen said. “We are immigrant-led as much as we can be. We will do it for as long as we have to. We hope that she can go home soon, but unless we can change the laws she will be here for a while if that is her choice.”
Dineen said that volunteers learn how to check warrants for accuracy and record any interactions with police, should they transpire. She added that, so far, no one from ICE has shown up, and the church has a good relationship with the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office and the Boulder Police Department.
“They are aware she is here,” Dineen said. “It’s never been a secret. The day she came here we notified ICE.”
The current sanctuary movement in the United States is a continuation of sorts of one from the late 1980s and early 1990s when churches and synagogues took in refugees fleeing violence in Central America, much of it perpetrated by U.S.-backed governments. As many as 2,000 people were spirited across the southern border and offered refuge.
The congregation at Boulder’s Unitarian church voted last year to formally offer sanctuary, but for several years, its members have helped people in Colorado’s immigrant community, Dineen said.
“We have helped and worked with families who’ve had family members deported,” she said. “We go to ICE detention facility rallies in Aurora. We connect with families who have been separated.”
‘People find ways to survive’
Encalada Latorre came to the United States illegally in 2000. In 2010, she was arrested on a felony charge for using a stolen Social Security number for work. She later pleaded guilty — she claims she got bad legal advice — and the conviction sank her chances of gaining legal standing in this country.
“I have paid for the problem I got myself into,” she said. “I feel that I’ve completed my commitment toward paying for it and now I’m facing deportation anyway.
“When people arrive to this country and there is not a legal path to immigration, people find ways to survive and do things like buy Social Security numbers.”
Prior to and since her legal troubles began, Encalada Latorre has cooked and washed dishes at a nursing home and worked at a dog food factory. She said her boss at the nursing home was willing to rehire her, but couldn’t because of the felony conviction.
“Immigrants by nature of coming to this country need to work and often work 12 hours a day in very difficult circumstances,” she said. “They do the tough jobs no one wants to do. … To a great extent, this country is built on immigrant work.”
‘An ICE immigration enforcement priority.’
Jurado, who is from Mexico, is also in the United States illegally, and was arrested on an immigration violation in January. Encalada Latorre alleges the arrest was retaliation by ICE because she’s in sanctuary.
ICE denied the accusation, but spokesman Carl Rusnok confirmed this week that the agency became aware of Jurado during its investigation into Encalada Latorre. Rusnok declined to discuss either person’s case, citing privacy concerns, but sent the Daily Camera a prior ICE declaring Encalada Latorre to be an “immigration fugitive.”
The statement said Encalada Latorre came to the U.S. illegally in 2002 (she says 2000) somewhere near Brownsville, Texas. The agency alleges that after she exhausted her legal appeals following her felony conviction, Encalada Latorre twice failed to report to ICE for scheduled check-in appointments in August and November of 2016.
“As a convicted felon with a final order of deportation imposed by a federal immigration judge, Encalada-La Torre is an ICE immigration enforcement priority,” the statement reads.
Under its current policy, ICE avoids arresting people at “sensitive locations.” That includes schools, hospitals, doctors offices, weddings, funerals, public demonstrations and churches. The policy, however, does not forbid ICE from making arrests at those locations should it deem the action necessary, and the policy is not extended to such locations that are near an international border. (Emphasis is mine — MRW)
‘Process should be followed’
The Unitarian Universalist Church of Boulder is located in an unincorporated portion of Boulder County, which has elected a Democratic sheriff and an all-Democratic Board of County Commissioners. The largest city in the county is famously liberal Boulder.
All three of those entities — Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle, and the governments of Boulder and Boulder County — have immigration stances that run counter to the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy.
Boulder declared itself a sanctuary city in January 2017, ahead of President Donald Trump’s inauguration, and the Boulder County commissioners adopted a new policy last month prohibiting employees from cooperating with immigration agents who don’t have warrants.
The Boulder County Sheriff’s Office long has taken the position that it won’t comply with most ICE requests to hold inmates who are to be released from the county jail because they’ve served out sentences or posted bond.
Charlie Danaher, vice chair of the Republican Party of Boulder County, said he’s not very familiar with Encalada Latorre’s case, and doesn’t have a strong opinion on churches offering sanctuary as that long has been in their purview.
But he said he feels it’s a “misuse” of sanctuary if the person claiming it would not be in imminent harm upon returning to his or her country of origin. Ultimately, he said, the U.S. has an obligation to take in people who are being abused in their native countries.
“If they live in a country with high crime or a low standard of living, if they are being persecuted, the United States should be welcoming to those people,” Danaher said. “I think that is the proper thing to do.”
Danaher said the U.S. has a legitimate right to determine who enters the country, and a legal process needs to be followed. He said it’s not impossible for the country to have secure borders and still be sympathetic to foreigners.
“I’m not being cynical, but if they are simply looking for a country with better economics or less crime, I don’t think that in and of itself is enough of a reason to let them come with no questions asked,” he said. “There is an application process and that should be followed.”
‘We are good people and not animals’
Unable to go to a regular job, Encalada Latorre is working with fellow immigrants and allies in the sanctuary movement on a ” People’s Resolution” that calls on state and federal lawmakers to clean up what she sees as a broken and overly complex immigration system.
Three other women taking sanctuary in Colorado churches also are involved in the campaign, as are about 50 other people in sanctuary across the United States.
Encalada Latorre said there are moments of hope.
Gisella Collazo, a Peruvian woman taking refuge at a Springfield, Mass., church, recently was granted a one-year reprieve from deportation. Such signals notwithstanding, the anti-immigrant rhetoric springing from the Trump administration is not encouraging.
“Certainly we are feeling more attacked by this administration,” she said. “It’s certainly the case that things are getting worse.”
Trump has been criticized for what many believe is racist rhetoric with regard to immigrants, including his campaign kick-off speech in which he called Mexican nationals rapists. He also has referred to members of the MS-13 gang as “animals” and has warned that immigrants will “infest” this country.
Much anti-immigrant sentiment revolves around the perception that people are coming to the United States to obtain welfare and other government benefits and, in general, drain the resources of the country.
Encalada Latorre called this belief “the great lie being propagated.”
“I would like people to know we are not bad people,” she said. “We came to this country to make our lives better. By doing so, we better our lives and we also improve the economy of the United States because we pay our taxes.”
Encalada Latorre organized a rally at the church in late June that brought as many as a thousand people to protest the now-rescinded policy of separating migrant children from their parents at the Mexican border. It was one of many that happened around the country the same day.
“I’m upset by the fact that there are 3-year-old kids being taken to court and asked if they have a lawyer or not,” Encalada Latorre said. “As immigrants, we are good people and not animals as our president has stated.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
John Bear: 303-473-1355, email@example.com or twitter.com/johnbearwithme
Bryant Moya, 9, his mother Ingrid Encalada Latorre and his brother Anibal Jurado, nearly 2, in their room at Foothills Unitarian Church in Fort Collins last October. Encalada Latorre has since moved to the Unitarian Universalist Church, where she is taking sanctuary in hopes of avoiding deportation to Peru. (Joe Amon / The Denver Post)
Wow! If I hadn’t read this for myself — every word of it — I might never have believed anyone could be so deluded. It’s like this woman and her supporters set up a potential heartbreaking drama, and ICE considers her case such a low priority they aren’t going to play any role in it.
I have to credit Encalada Latorre (and her interpreter) for having all of the Far Left talking points down pat. Here’s what they amount to: