A sanctuary for migrants

As an undocumented migrant, she received an order to leave the U.S. — but this church gave her a safe place to stay.

Migrants living in a place of worship

“My name is Rosa Gutierrez Lopez. I’m originally from El Salvador. I arrived in the U.S. in 2005. I have three kids that are American citizens, one daughter who’s 12, Maria Salome, Juan Pablo is 10 and John is 7 and he has Down syndrome.” Rosa Gutierrez Lopez is a special congregant. She and her 3 children have been living in a church in Maryland since 2018.

Ordered to leave her home of over 15 years

In December 2018, Rosa received a deportation order asking her to leave the U.S. where she’d been living for over 15 years. For the first 6 months of her sanctuary, Rosa lived apart from her kids. “The hardest part was when I had to separate from my kids. They stayed in Virginia and I came here. That was the hardest part, I was crying at night because I wasn’t used being without my kids.”, she explained.

Sensitive locations

Rosa is one of the 49 undocumented migrants currently living in places of worship in the U.S. They are considered by ICE as “sensitive locations” where “enforcement actions should be avoided.” In 2017, the church voted to become a sanctuary for migrants. It's located only 9 miles from the White House.

Volunteers helping these migrants

“There’s an organization in helping Rosa plan everything, there are people that stay with her, take shifts, staying during the day and event at night. There are people who are dedicated to doing shopping, buying groceries, supplies, there are people who are dedicated to transporting the kids back and forth to their various activities. There is interpreters like myself, those who are more involved in the legal side of things. It’s been organized into tasks and then people make use of their skills wherever they fit. People want to help. It creates an opportunity for people to be in solidarity with each other and I feel that is something that we need nowadays.”, Rod Brana, a volunteer, tells Brut.

A change of perspective is needed

“We all have the right to be treated with dignity and with respect. A lot of people have emigrated from Europe, and they’re seen positively. Why can’t we be seen positively too?”, Lopez concludes.