Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro meets local mother living in sanctuary

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Even though she’s not eligible to vote, one Columbus woman was hoping to gain the attention of Democratic presidential hopefuls ahead of Tuesday’s debate.

Edith Espinal invited all of the candidates to visit with her at Columbus Mennonite Church, where she’s been staying in sanctuary for more than two years to avoid deportation to Mexico.

The mother of three has lived in Columbus for more than 20 years and has exhausted all of her appeals to achieve legal status.

“[We need to] show the community exactly what is going on,” Espinal said. “And we need to fight. We need to fight to keep our families together.”

The sole candidate to accept Edith’s invitation was former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro.

“I wanted to come here today because Edith’s case is one [like that] of so many people who are caught up in an immigration system that’s broken, of human beings that are suffering because our laws are bad,” Castro told a crowd of Espinal’s supporters.

Castro met privately with Espinal and her family prior to addressing the crowd.

“He was in my room, on my bed, sitting on my bed with me and my husband and my daughter and my dog,” Espinal explained of the conversation.

RELATED: Undocumented immigrant mother Edith Espinal marks 2 years in sanctuary

Castro touts his immigration platform as a model for the 2020 field. In what he calls a “People First” plan, he said he would give all undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship, cut half of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.) agency and make illegal border crossing a civil offense, rather than a criminal one.

He praised Espinal and said, “She is showing a lot of courage and that courage is inspiring a lot of people and it’s giving hope to people that are in her situation. Through her work and through the work of people in the public realm, I hope that we can change our laws.”

Espinal said she’s also hoping for policy reform so she can leave the church without fear of deportation.

She said other Democratic candidates returned her calls, but could not fit a visit into their schedules.

Espinal’s daughter planned to attend the Democratic Presidential Debate in hopes of addressing them directly

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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