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.


02/22/2020 11:17 AMupdated: 02/24/2020 4:02 PM


  • Jan P.
    03/02/2021 22:54

    Right on!

  • Jan P.
    03/02/2021 22:53

    Well if you think you are wonderful citizens !!! There are enough spelling mistakes from the Comments to blow that to dust! And secondly many of the commentators are quoting nonsense making no effort to tell the truth and displaying their dislike and rejection of those who wish to join the church ! Sad souls!

  • Pamela J.
    03/01/2020 03:42

    I am sad for her wish I could do something but the church should remember it’s the law and if we cannot abide by earthly laws which we can see how can we abide by heavenly laws which we cannot see.

  • Iz G.
    02/29/2020 02:40

    homeless American refugees need that place first don't you think

  • Emily P.
    02/29/2020 02:19

    So sad

  • Diane C.
    02/28/2020 15:51

    You had 14years to start your paper work to become an American citizen it's your fault no one else's.

  • Joe S.
    02/28/2020 00:17

    There is no sanctuary to hide from the law. There is an accessory before the fact. Aiding and abetting

  • Jane M.
    02/27/2020 01:16

    you are a criminal, period.

  • Robert S.
    02/25/2020 23:22

    Only she believe in her IGNORANCE that she's safe!

  • Gail R.
    02/25/2020 05:53

    I feel bad for them but you here 14years and did not learn to speak English sad

  • Tensina A.
    02/24/2020 23:28

    Bible says obey the laws of men for all things are from God but hey whatever floats your boat

  • Blobby L.
    02/24/2020 17:06


  • Nayden K.
    02/23/2020 19:01

    Ohh ya? Same as pastor Quibuloy?

  • Bruce F.
    02/22/2020 20:05

    It’s so often a religious people putting a spanner in the works, breaking the law and thinking they’re being good.

  • Retta C.
    02/22/2020 15:41

    This is happening in India, too😔😔😔

  • David J.
    02/22/2020 14:05

    Time to remove tax exempt status to these churches harboring criminals

  • Ogbe A.
    02/22/2020 12:00


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