Earlier this month, Edith Espinal was sitting in her room at Columbus, Ohio’s Mennonite Church when the letter from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrived.
“Please be advised that your failure to depart the United States in compliance with your final order of removal may result in civil and criminal penalties, including monetary fines and imprisonment,” it read. The letter also instructed Espinal to appear at a December 17 appointment at her local ICE field office.
Espinal is in sanctuary, an increasingly common practice in which immigrants take shelter in a house of worship to avoid deportation. Though there is no law governing sanctuary, ICE has typically refrained from entering the grounds of sanctuary-providing churches to arrest those whom the congregations have given protection.