Supporters Work for Return of Deported Covenanter

A photo of Rosa taken days before she was deported.

A photo of Rosa taken days before she was deported.

El PASO, TX (September 9, 2016) — A week after Covenanter Rosa Mani Arias was deported in the middle of the night, volunteers continue to seek to reunite her with her 11-year-old daughter, Emily, who is an American citizen and is receiving treatments at a Chicago hospital for juvenile arthritis. They haven’t seen each other in two years.

Rob Reed, pastor of Sonoma Springs Church in Las Cruces, New Mexico, has championed Rosa’s cause and says the way she was deported threatened her safety. As well, he calls the treatment she experienced while incarcerated since June harassment.

Rosa and other deportees were walked across the bridge from El Paso to Juarez, Mexico, shortly after midnight. Reed only learned that the event was happening shortly beforehand.

Fellow detainees who Rosa had shared the gospel with during her detention signed a card before she was deported to express their support.

Fellow detainees who Rosa had shared the gospel with during her detention signed a card before she was deported to express their support.

“Can you believe that Border Patrol would deport a woman like Rosa into Juarez on the Santa Fe Bridge at midnight?” he wrote in an email. “Where is compassion, human dignity, or just a little common sense? This is intolerable!”

Reed said he showed an officer a motion filed by a pro bono attorney earlier in the day to stay the deportation, but the officer said it did not matter because an immigration judge had signed an expedited deportation.

Melissa Lopez, an attorney and the executive director of the Diocesan Migrant and Refugee Services in El Paso, wrote in an email afterward, “I am really concerned about the way things were handled at the bridge. Some of the things that they told Pastor Reed simply aren’t true, so it concerns me that they either didn’t know what they were talking about or just chose to ignore the request for stay.”

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deported Rosa less than 24 hours after a federal judge granted prosecutors’ request to dismiss the federal charges against her for entering the country illegally.

Others waiting for possible deportation were more than 20 Guatemalans – men, women, children, and a baby. Rosa and Reed prayed with them. “Rosa, in the midst of the pain, tiredness was still incredibly resilient and full of faith,” Reed said.

It was the same faith Rosa demonstrated while incarcerated at the El Paso County Detention Center where she led nightly prayer, worship, and biblical teaching, Reed said two days before the deportation. Several women gave their lives to Christ. Others made re-commitments.

“Every time I visit, it is like hearing New Testament stories from Paul in prison,” Reed said.

But the treatment she and other women allegedly received while incarcerated bordered on harassment, Reed said. “Rosa and the other women in her block would be woken up at 3 a.m. for breakfast daily. Why? When (Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers), Border Patrol, or other law enforcement people would move one of the woman from another jail, they came in the middle of the night.”

Rosa and her husband, as well as their oldest daughter, America, were living illegally in the United States from 2002 to 2008 but sold their house and returned to Mexico when the factory where Emilio was working closed. The couple made a commitment to Christ while living in the U.S. and became active members of Puebla Covenant Church in Mexico on their return.

From l to r: Emily, America, Ivan, and Emilio

From l to r: Emily, America, Ivan, and Emilio

Two children, Emily and Ivan, were born in the United States. Emily developed a severe form of arthritis after the family moved to Mexico. Emilio and Rosa had developed a successful business, but when they could no longer pay for the medicine, which came from the United States and cost $4,000 a month, they sought to return to the U.S. on a humanitarian visa. However, their application was denied.

Emilio was desperate for medical care—he and the three children were able to make it across the border, but Rosa was caught and sent back. When Emily was hospitalized in critical care this past June, Rosa attempted to cross the border again after being turned down a second time for a humanitarian visa. She has been held in the El Paso facility since her arrest.

Reed said supporters had secured temporary housing for Rosa in Juarez while continuing to work for her return. The church is working with several organizations to advocate for Rosa, including PICO, one of the largest faith-based community organizing networks in the U.S.,NM CAFé, Hope Border Institute, the Mexican Consulate in El Paso, and Marisol Martinez, the president of the Covenant Church of Mexico.

One Hispanic Covenant congregation in Chicago learned of the family’s situation recently and is now assisting them.

Reed wrote, “I am processing emotions and anger and with the help of God trying to keep it ‘righteous.’ We all need to remember the enemy is never people. We are to love people. We are to resist, denounce, and work against injustice and evil, but always love people. Do you remember the story of Jesus in Matthew 21? He overturned tables in his anger but not people!”

For a previous story, see Church Seeks to Stop Deportation