An illegal immigrant who’s been hiding in sanctuary in an Ohio church for the past two years said Friday she wants the Democratic presidential candidates, who are coming to the state for a debate next week, to come meet with her.
Edith Espinal has become a major test case for immigrant-rights groups who say she’s the perfect candidate for leniency, but as an illegal immigrant for more than 20 years she remains a potential target for deportation.
“All of the Democratic candidates have said they support immigrant families like mine. It is time to show that support,” Ms. Espinal said in a video statement asking them to visit her at Columbus Mennonite Church, a 15-minute drive from where Democrats are holding their debate in Westerville, Ohio. “Come show your support for my family. I will be here waiting for you.”
The Mexican woman snuck into the U.S. as a teen in the 1990s and has attempted to claim asylum, but that claim was rejected and she’s been through the immigration court process and had a judge order her deported.
She now has three U.S. citizen children she says she won’t leave.
She’s tried to ask U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for a stay of removal, which would allow her to leave the church and return to her previous life despite her unauthorized status, but the agency has rejected those attempts so far while she’s in hiding.
She drew attention over the summer when she announced ICE had slapped her with a notice of a nearly $500,000 fine for evading deportation.
The Democratic presidential field has embraced illegal immigrants as a cause, vowing all manner of steps to try to grant most of them legal status.
Some have gone further.
In the 2016 campaign, Democratic candidates drew attention by meeting with illegal immigrant “Dreamers” who were granted reprieves from deportation under the legally challenged Obama-era DACA program.
Sen. Bernard Sanders has hired DACA beneficiaries in both his 2016 and 2020 campaigns.
Ironically, as illegal immigrants, DACA recipients are not allowed to be paid government workers.