What do we learn in a year? What new possibilities open and hopes get dashed in 365 days? On August 7, 2015, Rosa Robles Loreto reached a moment she had hoped would not need to come. That day was her 365th day in sanctuary at Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson, Arizona—the church where I serve as pastor.

Even though Rosa should be eligible for a discretionary close to her deportation, the last year has showcased so many immigration-related political theaters that a full year later, this mother continues to miss cheering at her boys’ baseball games, attending parent-teacher meetings, volunteering at her sons’ school and at the family’s Catholic parish—she is missing some of the key activities that have defined her life.


Rosa came to live in my church to seek protection from a pending deportation. This mother of two, known and loved in this city, had no criminal history but neither did she have papers or a path to regularize her status even though this remains one of her deepest wishes. She came to my church because she knew that her children’s future was bound-up with their chosen home in the United States. She came to my church with the hope that she could stay with her family and that our government might realize that she contributes more within our community than without.

Despite the overwhelming bipartisan agreement that our immigration policies are broken and that families (of various stripes) are the cornerstone of our country, Rosa’s life has been held in flux by partisan politics. Yet, a new experience is growing for this devout mother and wife, she has cast aside all of her life’s fears and anxieties to focus on what really matters. For her this is her children, husband, and her faith in God. 

When she heard last summer that the executive order would be delayed to maintain electoral bids on the mid-terms, she courageously waited, hoping that normalcy would soon return to her family’s life.  As she silently wept when listening to the president’s executive order, she rejoiced for friends who would benefit and hoped that mothers of DREAMers like her would also someday be recognized as valuable. 

When portions of the executive order were enjoined and ICE seemed increasingly unwilling to even consider following their enforcement guidelines and grant prosecutorial discretion, she again prayed that a way would be found for her and thousands like her to live healthy, productive lives without the threat of their family being torn apart. 

Sadly, lives like Rosa’s hang in the balance while both parties seek to shore up future electoral gambles. And it’s not just Rosa; it’s the thousands of people whom Rosa has affected in her life and it’s the many thousands more who face separation from their families from immigration policy paralysis. 

So what is to be done? For Rosa, her path of uncertainty in the face of government inaction continues, yet it is also a path of a trying clarity—a clarity based on the cornerstone of faith and loving relationships. When the stakes are so high political grandstanding becomes meaningless but nonetheless destructive.  

As our country again moves into another election cycle, the experiences of individuals like Rosa and the over 10,000 thousand Tucsonans who have called, emailed, signed petitions, and sent letters urging our government to stop this mom’s deportation become lost in the hyperbolic talking points of politicians convinced that they know better than the constituents they purport to represent. Local voices including our County Board of Supervisors and Tucson’s Mayor and Council have urged Congress, the administration, and Secretary Jeh Johnson to intervene and stop Rosa’s deportation. They do so because they know our community is stronger when dedicated mothers and neighbors like Rosa are part of it. They do so because they know that the political rhetoric rarely connects to the majority of experiences in a city like ours.

One year later, many would assume that Rosa should feel defeated. 

Yet, our hope has shifted and deepened; shifted from the halls of power to communities of resistance. And our hope has deepened as it has been challenged and ultimately strengthened by the long hard work of sanctuary. Rosa, like so many others, cannot be reduced merely to a political pawn or to a victim of feckless political showboating. I hope and pray that politicians and bureaucrats find the courage that Rosa has shown to cut through the posturing and deliver results by stopping her deportation today.

Harrington, pastor of Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson, Arizona, was named by the Center for American Progress as one of 15 Faith Leaders to Watch in 2015.