To avoid deportation, woman takes sanctuary in Columbus church

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COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Edith Espinal was scheduled to report for deportation Tuesday morning in Columbus. She has instead taken sanctuary inside a Columbus Mennonite Church. Supporters say it is the first known case of sanctuary in Ohio in recent years.

Espinal has three children including a daughter who was born in the United States. Espinal applied for asylum in 2013.  Her application was denied and her appeals through the court system failed to overturn the decision.  “I don’t want to leave behind my children,” Espinal told supporters Tuesday morning during a prayer rally. “I don’t want to leave this country. I’ve been here more than 10 years in Columbus, Ohio and I’m fighting to keep my family united.”

The Columbus Mennonite Church offered to provide sanctuary for Espinal and is fixing up a small apartment inside their Clintonville church building. Pastor Joel Miller said the action fits with basic faith convictions. “Defending vulnerable people is elemental to the life of faith,” Miller said.

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