This Undocumented Mother Returns Home After Living in Church for More Than Three Years

Lead Photo: Art by Stephany Torres for Remezcla
Art by Stephany Torres for Remezcla
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After more than three years living in a church in Columbus, Ohio, Edith Espinal, an immigrant rights advocate and undocumented mother of three, is finally going home.

“I want to thank everyone for their support,” Espinal, 43, said. “I am so happy to be home. “We need to keep fighting and pushing for my case and for more sanctuary leaders.”

Espinal, who had lived in Columbus for more than 25 years, moved into the Columbus Mennonite Church in October 2017 after her last of many applications for asylum was rejected. To avoid being deported by the Trump administration back to her home state of Michoacán, she took refuge in the church.

Although her attorney Lizbeth Mateo says Espinal “still has a final order of deportation,” she is not considered a priority for removal by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. She will now have to check in regularly with ICE officials to let them know where she is.

With President Joe Biden taking office in January, Espinal’s undocumented status is less dire. On Thursday (Feb. 18), Biden unveiled his immigration plan to Congress, which would offer a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. According to The Columbus Dispatch, Trump’s ICE officials told Espinal she was an “enforcement priority.”

“We’re going to continue pressing the Biden administration to do the right thing, and try to get rid of that order of deportation against Edith, so she can walk freely like everyone else does without fear,” Mateo says, as reported by NBC News.

Columbus City Council member Elizabeth Brown took to Twitter Thursday to say she was “thrilled” for Espinal and her family.

Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin added that while Espinal’s case is not over, her situation was now moving in the right direction.