Friday night in the flicker of candlelight, more than 50 people marched around the Unitarian Universalist Church of Boulder to show solidarity with Ingrid Encalada Latorre, who for the past two years has been living in sanctuary to avoid deportation.
In an effort to show continued dedication for her cause, the church partnered with the Boulder County Sanctuary Coalition to host a vigil for Latorre. Before they marched, Latorre joined several others in addressing the crowd, encouraging the community to not stop fighting both for her and the 11 million other immigrants in “limbo.”
“It’s not only myself, but my immigrant community that is being attacked and facing deportation and family separation,” she said. “I want to keep my family together. Don’t leave me alone in this fight.”
While Latorre speaks English, she was most comfortable speaking through an interpreter. Katie Larson, who helped organize the event, translated for her. Latorre said she was happy to see people turn out to show their solidarity, but emphasized that her two years has been filled with obstacles.
“I have been fighting day after day, but I am not finding any open doors,” Latorre said.
Latorre has been living in sanctuary for two years, but has only been at the east Boulder church for about a year and a eight months. In that time, the church, where she lives with her three American-born children, has been her world. If she steps outside the grounds, she risks being detained. Volunteers have banded together to take the children to school, take her laundry to the laundromat, grocery shop and even watch the doors for Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.
ICE can make an arrest at any time, but the organization avoids sensitive locations like churches, hospitals and schools, according to ICE spokesperson Alethea Smock. Church officials confirmed Friday that ICE is aware of Latorre’s refuge at the church. The Boulder County Sheriff’s Office and police also are aware of her situation.
According to Smock, Latorre illegally entered the U.S. near Brownsville, Texas, in 2002 — though Latorre has said she came to the U.S. in 2000.
In 2010, Latorre served jail time for felony identification theft. Latorre said she stole a Social Security number so she could work. Denver ICE officials arrested her after she was released from jail. She was released from ICE custody the same day.
Smock has further alleged Latorre exhausted her legal appeals following her felony conviction. Latorre has said her record greatly harmed her chances for becoming a U.S. citizen. Latorre filed two requests for stay of removal, both of which were denied. She also twice failed to report to ICE in 2016, Smock said.
“As a convicted felon with a final order of removal imposed by a federal immigration judge, Encalada-La Torre is an ICE immigration enforcement priority,” Smock said Friday in an email statement.
When asked to comment on the situation, which has led a family to take sanctuary for two years, Smock said such a decision was not enforced by ICE.
“To be clear, aliens who take sanctuary from deportation do so of their own free will,” Smock said. “ICE prioritizes the arrest and removal of unlawfully present aliens who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security.”
For Larson, who has been working with Latorre, it has been a daily reminder of the freedoms she has that Latorre does not.
“It pains me, the minute I walk out (the church) doors and I see that it’s a beautiful day and I can go for a run or meet my friends for a beer, whatever it may be,” Larson said. “What hits me in the gut every time is that I have to leave her and this beautiful family here.”
Latorre’s lawyers are in the process of getting her immigration case reopened, according to Larson. Joining in the fight is U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse, who has introduced a private bill called, For the Relief of Ingrid Encalada Latorre. The bill, if approved, could give Latorre a six-month window to stay in the U.S. and potentially work out her case. The bill is still in the legislative process and has yet to go before the House or Senate. During the vigil, signatures were collected to show support for the bill.
Larson said to continue fighting for Latorre’s cause they need community help. She said people can volunteer to help Latorre’s family with errands or chores or show support for Latorre’s campaign, No Mas Chuecos, which seeks to provide education and resources for immigrants so they can avoid resorting to identity theft to gain employment.
Most importantly, Latorre encouraged people to go out and vote, another privilege she does not have as an undocumented immigrant. While she described the two years in sanctuary as “long,” she said she was happy that it afforded her the chance to remain with her family.
“I’m so grateful to this church for opening its doors to me,” Latorre said. “My life is not going to stop. I’m going to keep fighting for many more opportunities.”