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An immigrant mom leaves church sanctuary after 3 years, ICE won't immediately deport

"Finally, I can go home," Edith Espinal, an immigrant rights advocate, said.
Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch
Holding her dog Bella, Edith Espinal greets supporter Phil Hart after her meeting with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in Westerville, Ohio, on Feb. 18, 2021.Doral Chenoweth / USA Today Network

An immigrant rights advocate and mom of three who has sought sanctuary in a Columbus, Ohio, church for more than three years will be able to go home without the threat of immediate deportation, her lawyer said Thursday after a meeting with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.

Edith Espinal, 43, had been living at the Columbus Mennonite Church since October 2017 to avoid being deported to Mexico after unsuccessfully applying for asylum, citing rising violence in her home state of Michoacán. She eventually was ordered to leave the country. She has lived in Columbus for more than two decades.

"Finally, I can go home," Espinal told reporters after meeting with the officials. With tears of relief, she celebrated the small victory in the presence of dozens of supporters who accompanied her to the ICE building.

"But it is not the end of her case. We're still going to have to fight," her attorney Lizbeth Mateo said.

Espinal was released under an order of supervision, meaning that while she's not considered an immediate priority for deportation, she must periodically check in with ICE officials to inform them about her whereabouts.

Supporters say they are hopeful immigration policies under President Joe Biden, including an executive order changing who will be considered a priority for deportation, may help undocumented immigrants such as Espinal,

In Espinal's case, she had previously been denied a stay of removal before she sought sanctuary in 2017 because ICE officials said she was considered an "enforcement priority," The Columbus Dispatch reported.

"We're going to continue pressing the Biden administration to do the right thing, and try to get rid of that order of deportation against Edith, so she can walk freely like everyone else does without fear," Mateo said.

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