Protection from deportation granted to five Colorado immigrants in sanctuary


DENVER — Five of Colorado's sanctuary leaders have recently been granted protection from deportation for one year. Each immigrant took sanctuary in churches to avoid deportation as they await final decision on their immigration cases. 

As of December 20, 2021, Jeanette Vizguerra, Arturo Hernandez Garcia and Sandra Lopez all have one year to leave sanctuary without the risk of deportation, something they haven’t been able to do for a long time. After the year is over, if their immigration cases haven’t been resolved, they have the option to stay in sanctuary without this protection, according to the office of Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colorado). Ingrid Encalada Latorre and Rosa Sabido were granted stays of removal earlier in 2021.

Alethea Smock, with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), told Rocky Mountain PBS a Stay of Removal is a temporary humanitarian benefit ICE may grant to a noncitizen who is pending removal from the country, in order to allow them time to get their affairs in order to comply with a final order of removal. Stays may be granted up to one year in duration.

Neguse first wrote a letter to President Joe Biden on their behalf back in January 2021 asking for the stays of removal. After almost 12 months, Neguse reiterated the request in December, which was granted shortly after.

“They have lived in Colorado for decades, enriching our economy and adding value to our communities, and should not have been a priority for deportation” said Neguse. “This stay of removal will be life changing for each of these individuals and their families and we welcome this new chapter for each of them.” 

Jeanette Vizguerra shared a letter she received from ICE, stating that they warranted a stay of removal for one year. She had lived in sanctuary for years up until this point.

Vizguerra fled Mexico City in 1997 because of violence. The letter Neguse’s office wrote to ICE said she purchased a fake Social Security card to secure a third job and provide much needed income for her family. The fake documents were found during a traffic stop and she pled guilty to a misdemeanor for attempted use of false documents in 2009. In 2013, she was convicted of illegal entry after going back to Mexico for her mother’s funeral. The letter said that in response, Vizguerra began a public campaign through Rights for All People to educate immigrants about their rights through sharing her story. In 2017, she was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people. Her immigration case, however, has not been resolved. 

This protection from deportation for a year, Vizguerra said, gives her permission to learn how to live her life without the confines of sanctuary. 

“I had mixed emotions. It was a sense of liberty but also deep sadness,” she said. “This year gives me pause to live peacefully, to restructure how I’m going to present my case again.” 

ICE told Rocky Mountain PBS they direct their officers to avoid making arrests at protected locations such as schools and places of worship. Before this protection, the five Colorado immigrants ran the risk of getting arrested if they left sanctuary for things like groceries. With this year-long protection, they can now do that. 

Ingrid Encalada Latorre gave birth to her youngest child in sanctuary. After having two cesarean sections, Latorre risked her health and had her baby vaginally because of fear that ICE would pick her up at the hospital. She said she had no other choice. 

“For me it’s something so beautiful to have this liberty, go outside, go to the store, take my kids to school without that fear or risk of immigration watching out for me,” said Latorre. “It was worth fighting for my case all these years.”       

In the letter, Neguse said they should not have been priorities for deportation. This permission came right before the holidays of 2021 and will end right before the holidays of 2022.  

“For me it was a gift,” said Vizguerra. A gift she hopes to have again next year. 

Colorado became a sanctuary state in 2019 when Governor Jared Polis signed HB19-1124  which enacts a number of directives including preventing a law enforcement officer from arresting or detaining an individual solely on the basis of a civil immigration detainer. However, this was during a time when the Trump administration was creating more restrictive policies on immigration and there were questions on where federal jurisdiction ended. At this time the Trump administration also created an executive order that introduced penalties against sanctuary cities. In April 2021, the Biden administration rescinded that order. Still, rules and laws surrounding sanctuary cities and states are complicated

[Related: American Immigration Council on Sanctuary Policies: An overview]

Sonia Gutierrez is a multimedia journalist with Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach her at

Julio Sandoval is a multimedia journalist with Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach him at

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