News & Media

For Immediate Release – Feb. 12, 2019

Contact: Gebe Martinez | Gebe.gmnetworking @gmail.com | 703-731-9505 or Omar Angel Perez | oangelperez@faithinaction.org | Mobile: 202-699-0694

WASHINGTON, DC — Members of the clergy and faith leaders on Tuesday delivered to Virginia Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner a letter signed by 132 faith leaders on behalf of Rosa Gutierrez Lopez, who escaped violence in El Salvador in 2005 and applied for asylum. Last December, the Virginia resident took sanctuary at Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church in Bethesda, MD, to avoid being permanently separated from her three U.S.-born children.

The letter, signed by clergy leaders representing more than 60 congregations in the metropolitan Washington, D.C., area and members of Faith in Action – DMV Sanctuary Congregations Network, asks the senators to use their moral leadership in this case — leadership that is lacking in President Trump’s political rhetoric that demonizes immigrants in an effort to justify a useless border wall.

“In a time when our current administration is separating thousands of children from their parents and jailing them as a deterrence to stop immigration, we need our senators from Virginia to reject the bait from a president who makes false claims about violence at the border and demonizes immigrants, regardless of status, at every opportunity,” the letter states.

The letter delivery took place with the backdrop of DHS funding negotiations in Congress and news that ICE is detaining 49,057 people per day, thousands of people more than they are appropriated to detain. The Trump administration has grown the immigration detention system by more than 40% since coming into office. As the administration targets immigrants in our communities, Congress turns a blind eye, refusing to hold ICE and CBP accountable for their reckless spending and human rights abuses, leaving people like Rosa with the false choice of being deported and permanently separated from her children or seeking sanctuary with faith communities.  

“We call on Congress to remember people and families like Rosa’s as they decide how to spend our tax dollars. We want our Members of Congress to know that as they are deliberating dollars and cents that they are negotiating with the lives and families of our congregations and communities. Congress has the power to intervene and reign in these abusive and rogue agencies who are pursuing people like Rosa for detention and deportation, or they can be complicit and endorse this administration’s aggressive and unjust targeting of immigrant families,” said Richard Morales, policy and program director for Faith in Action’s immigrants’ rights campaign, LA RED. “People seeking peace and refuge like Rosa Gutierrez Lopez are counting on you.”

“The wall or barriers, whatever the size, along with continued expansion of border militarization and mass detention and deportation machines must end. Instead of funding operations that promote hate and violence against immigrants, Congress should do what is right — invest in education, health care and jobs,” Morales added. “We demand that Congress see Trump’s political tactics for what they are.”

The government’s pursuit of Rosa belies her 13-year residency in Virginia; a mother who was twice was granted Deferred Action by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“She should not be a priority for deportation. Rosa is the sole caretaker of her children, the youngest of whom has Down Syndrome and a host of other serious health concerns. All of his doctors are here, some of whom have written to elected officials on Rosa’s behalf urging them to allow her to remain in the country for her children’s sake,” the letter to Kaine and Warner states.

Click here to access the letter in full, and click here to watch a video of Rosa in sanctuary.

The letter to the Virginia senators requests that they:

  • Work with Rosa’s legal team to file the stay of removal.
  • Call the director of ICE in Virginia and speak with her about the case and ask for a stay.
  • Meet with Rosa and her children.
  • Join a vigil or public action to show support for Rosa.
  • Write an Op-Ed in support of Rosa.


Faith in Action, formerly known as PICO National Network, is the largest grassroots, faith-based organizing network in the United States. The nonpartisan organization works with 1,000 religious congregations in more than 200 cities and towns through its 46 local and state federations. For more information, visit www.faithinaction.org.




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