SEATTLE (AP) — A Seattle church is providing sanctuary to a construction company owner who came to the U.S. from Mexico illegally years ago.
Jaime Rubio Sulficio had been ordered to leave the country by March 28 but on Friday took sanctuary at Seattle’s St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral.
The move is intended to take advantage of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement guidelines to avoid arrests at sensitive locations such as places of worship while he works with lawyers to seek a legal remedy to his immigration status.
Rubio Sulficio said the decision was not easy, and he and his wife Keiko Maruyama agonized for months over the move. His wife and his 6-year-old son are both U.S. citizens, and the family wanted to remain together.
“Thinking of him growing up without me around breaks my heart,” Rubio Sulficio said.
He is the second immigrant to take sanctuary at a church in the region, according to Michael Ramos, executive director of the Church Council of Greater Seattle. Jose Robles, also a Mexican immigrant ordered deported, has been living for nine months at Gethsemane Lutheran Church in downtown Seattle.
Both churches are part of a new sanctuary movement that has arisen in the past two years as the administration of President Donald Trump cracked down on immigrants living illegally in the U.S. Ramos said 11 local churches and synagogues have pledged support, though not all of them have space for people to live on-site.
ICE spokeswoman Tanya Roman declined to comment on the sanctuary movement but criticized local governments that have adopted policies prohibiting cooperation with immigration enforcement.
“Sanctuary policies not only provide a refuge for illegal aliens, but they also shield criminal aliens who prey on people in their own and other communities,” she said in a prepared statement.
Rubio Sulficio’s attorney, Lori Walls, said he has no criminal record other than a misdemeanor for illegal entry. She said that incident happened in 2010 when, after living in the Seattle area for years, Rubio Sulficio went home to visit his sick mother and was caught as he tried to re-enter the U.S.
An immigration judge ordered him deported in 2012, but ICE repeatedly granted him temporary stays of that order, a consideration sometimes offered to immigrants whose families would suffer hardships if they left. Maruyama, his wife, has epilepsy.
Walls said ICE said in November it would no longer renew Rubio Sulficio’s stay, giving him 120 days to leave.