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Under The Steeple, A Sanctuary From Deportation

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Betsy Blake
/
American Friends Service Committee
Juana Tobar Ortega with her family outside St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Greensboro, North Carolina. Standing, left to right: Carlitos Ortega, Yeimy Tobar, Carlos Ortega (husband) and Jackie Tobar. Seated, left to right: Koral Briguette (granddaughter)

Juana Luz Tobar Ortega is a mother of four and grandmother of two who has lived in Asheboro, North Carolina for more than 20 years. Tobar Ortega works, pays taxes, and is active in her local church. She is also undocumented. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement ordered Tobar Ortega to return to her native Guatemala by the end of May 2017. Instead, Tobar Ortega made the radical decision to take refuge at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Greensboro, where the vestry voted to shelter her and protect her from deportation.

 

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Credit American Friends Service Committee

Churches are among the sensitive spaces, including schools and hospitals, where ICE agents generally do not make arrests or detentions. Host Frank Stasio speaks with Tobar Ortega’s eldest daughter Lesvi Molina, Reverend Randall Keeney, the vicar of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, and Andrew Willis Garcés, organizing coordinator for the Carolina branch of the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organization fighting Tobar Ortega’s deportation. 

Laura Pellicer is a digital reporter with WUNC’s small but intrepid digital news team.
Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.