COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — For two years Edith Espinal has been living in sanctuary at a local church in Columbus and for now there’s no end in sight.
Faith leaders and community members stood in solidarity at the Columbus Mennonite Church not to celebrate Edith’s time in sanctuary, but rather to mark how much time has passed without answers to her immigration status here in the United States.
“I never imagined that I need to spend 2 years or 730 days living in the church,” Espinal said.
What she never imagined is now her reality.
“I feel now very depressed and very stressed,” said Espinal.
She said Columbus is home for her, her husband and their three children.
She has lived here since 1995 and has applied for asylum multiple times, but for the last two years, her home has been inside of a church after she exhausted all of her appeals and was ordered to leave the country.
Edith hopes soon she can walk out of that church a free woman.
“I want to keep fighting because I want to figure out my status and go back to my family.”
An immigration status that has her facing deportation, which is why the Columbus Mennonite Church is her sanctuary.
She has spent birthdays, holidays, and most recently her daughter’s high school graduation inside the church walls.
“In June she graduated from high school, and I missed her graduation,” said Espinal. “I feel very sad because when I see the picture that my husband sent to me, I’m not part of the picture.”
The only picture she has is of her and her daughter inside the church, but she tells NBC4 through it all one thing keeps her strong and smiling, the support from the community
“So many people worry about how I feel, worry about my situation, sometimes I have people from the community come spend time with me.”
She said they even think about her when they’re not here at the church.
Edith keeps every birthday card and even cards from children telling her to stay strong.
She said it was never her intention to bring attention to her situation, but it is now her plan to fight for her freedom.
“If I need to do it again, I do it because I want to keep my family together.”