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Out Of Sanctuary: Honduran Woman's Deportation Halted

Leoneda Inge

A Honduran woman, who spent the last two years living in a Chapel Hill church, has crossed a major hurdle in her fight to avoid deportation.

The Church of Reconciliation and Chapel Hill Mennonite Fellowship partnered to provide Rosa del Carmen Ortez-Cruz with “sanctuary,” back in 2018. The mother of four fled to the US from Honduras in 2002, after she said she was almost killed by her ex-partner.

Ortez-Cruz said, shortly after moving to the church, it was hard being separated from her family.

“You feel really supported, and there’re a lot of people who appreciate you," said Ortez-Cruz. "But it’s not easy to be here in this place.”

The Church of Reconciliation said in an email to members that Ortez-Cruz’s order for deportation was dismissed by the immigration court on July 29, 2020.

"Let us look forward to a time of great celebration for this but also not forget that our Sanctuary mission continues as we support Rosa in settling into this next, against all odds, chapter of her life," said The Sanctuary Committee at Church of Reconciliation, in the email.

While Ortez-Cruz was in sanctuary the past 27 months, her three younger children lived with their father's family in Greensboro. Her oldest child was in college. Ortez-Cruz said during a news conference while moving into the church, that she was a mother, a hard worker and not a criminal like Immigration and Customs Enforcement portrayed.

“I worked in a factory and a taco shop, working sixteen years,” said Ortez-Cruz.

Before Ortez-Cruz's deportation order was dismissed by the immigration court, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, VA decided unanimously to dismiss her deportation order. The government has the option to appeal.

Leoneda Inge is WUNC’s race and southern culture reporter, the first public radio journalist in the South to hold such a position. She also is co-host of the podcast Tested and host of the special podcast series, PAULI. Leoneda is the recipient of numerous awards from AP, RTDNA and NABJ. She’s been a reporting fellow in Berlin and Tokyo. You can follow her on Twitter @LeonedaInge.
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