Julian Castro Visits Illegal Immigrant Taking Sanctuary in Ohio Church as Other Democrat Candidates Voice Support

Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro speaks while visiting Edith Espinal, front row third from left, at Columbus Mennonite Church in Columbus, Ohio, on Oct. 15, 2019. Video screengrab

An undocumented woman living in an Ohio church to avoid deportation met with Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro on Tuesday (Oct. 15), one of several Democratic White House hopefuls now signaling support for her cause and the New Sanctuary Movement.

Castro visited Columbus Mennonite Church in Columbus, Ohio, to meet undocumented Mexican immigrant Edith Espinal ahead of the fourth Democratic debate, scheduled to take place at Otterbein University later in the day. Espinal has been living at the church for two years as a participant in the New Sanctuary Movement — a campaign in which churches and other houses of worship allow immigrants at risk of deportation to live on their property to stave off their removal by officials.

At a news conference convened during his visit to the church, Castro said Espinal’s case reflected the plight of many immigrants.

“I wanted to come here today because Edith’s case is one of so many, of people who are caught up in an immigration system that is broken — of human beings that are suffering because our laws are bad,” said the former secretary of the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department, according to video recorded by The Columbus Dispatch. “Our system is caught up in a bureaucracy that has not reflected our best values as a country.”

He added: “I came here because I want to challenge our country to do better, and this administration to do better.”

According to Espinal, Castro met with her and her family privately for roughly 20 minutes. Speaking in English and Spanish and intermittently translated by her 18-year-old daughter, Stephanie Gonzalez, Espinal told Religion News Service she was “happy” that Castro visited her, and she expressed hope that he might be able to mention her story during Tuesday night’s debate.

“I know I need to keep fighting to keep my family together,” she said.

She noted that she has extended an invitation to all Democratic presidential candidates participating in the debate to visit her and that she has been in communication with Beto O’Rourke’s campaign. Gonzalez planned to attend Tuesday night’s debate, with hopes of speaking with candidates.

Joel Miller, Columbus Mennonite’s pastor, said Castro, who is Catholic, told church members they were doing “the Lord’s work” by offering sanctuary to Espinal.

“For him to prioritize that — being here and being with Edith — I think was a message in and of itself,” Miller said.

Miller noted that Castro also discussed DAPA — Deferred Action for Parents of Americans — an Obama-era policy that offered legal protection for certain undocumented immigrants who had lived in the United States since 2010 and had children who were either citizens or lawful permanent residents. The policy was met with numerous legal challenges during the Obama administration and was rescinded in 2017 under President Donald Trump.

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Source: Religion News Service