from SF Gate

Undocumented woman marks a year inside Maryland church

Rebecca Tan, The Washington Post

Photo: Washington Post Photo By Michael Robinson Chavez

Next to Rock Creek in Bethesda, Maryland, sits a six-acre church campus shrouded by old cedar trees. For a year and two weeks, this has been Rosa Gutierrez Lopez’s home, sanctuary and site of confinement. This year, for the second time, it is where she will spend Christmas.

Gutierrez Lopez, 41, was the first undocumented immigrant in the Washington area to seek protection from deportation at a house of worship – one of the “sensitive location” categories where Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents are discouraged from conducting enforcement activities.

According to the nonprofit Church World Service, there are 49 residents in the United States taking refuge in faith communities. Hundreds of these institutions have designated themselves sanctuaries – a form of protest on the Trump administration’s increasing crackdown on undocumented immigrants.

Congregants at Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church had not met Gutierrez Lopez, a Fredericksburg, Virginia, resident, before she arrived at their doorstep one early morning in 2018. And she had not heard of Cedar Lane – had not even known about sanctuary – until several days before her scheduled deportation date: Dec. 10, 2018.

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