Small towns are the place to challenge immigration policy

Rosa Sabido finds sanctuary from immigrant detention in a politically divided town.

 

This month, Rosa Sabido, a 53-year old woman of “impeccable character,” became the 11th person nationwide currently in sanctuary in a church. The other churches providing sanctuary sit in metropolitan areas such as Albuquerque, Chicago and Phoenix. The next smallest congregation is in Las Cruces, New Mexico, a city of 98,000.

By comparison, the Mancos United Methodist Church, which sits on a quiet road off Highway 160 in Mancos, Colorado, and has 55 members, seems tiny and vulnerable. But don’t let the scene fool you. Congregations in small, rural Western towns might be the perfect place to challenge the faceless, fearful narrative dominating the national rhetoric.

The congregation of the Mancos United Methodist Church voted to provide immigrants sanctuary months ago, and recently provided Sabido a haven.
Maddy Butcher

For years, Sabido has worked as a church secretary in Cortez, and since 2008 she has applied annually (at a cost of $5,000 a pop) for stays of deportation while her legal status remained pending. Since arriving in the U.S. as a young adult, she has paid taxes and has no criminal record, according to her attorney Jennifer Kane-Rios from Lakewood, Colorado.

Sabido knows Mancos. This town of 1,400 trumpets itself as a place “where the West still lives.” There are regular cattle drives through town and it has a new state-recognized creative district where artists mingle. Like many of us, Sabido often stops at the P & D grocery store, for a drink and a chat.

Some call it diverse. Some call it divided. President Donald Trump won by 100 votes here. (The rest of Montezuma County chose Trump 2 to 1 over Hillary Clinton.)

We might not all agree, but we know each other. We meet at the P & D, the post office, the coffee shops and the library (where The Lives of Muhammad sits next a book by Bill O’Reilly on the new non-fiction shelf). We recognize each other’s vehicles. We learn each other’s routines.

On May 25, Sabido learned that Immigration and Customs Enforcement had denied her application. It didn’t matter that she’d filed all the appropriate paper work, owns her own home and cares for her ailing mother and stepfather, both citizens. “That was shocking,” Sabido said. “I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know what to do.”

The church nursery is now her bedroom. A hand-painted mural of Noah’s Ark watches over a twin bed, a chair and some personal items. The room will become even smaller as volunteers work to add a bathroom. Next door, the pastor’s office also has a twin bed squeezed in for overnight sanctuary volunteers.

There is an air of temporariness, but Pastor Craig Paschal and his parishioners put the wheels in motion months ago when they voted to accept immigrants seeking sanctuary. At the time, there were about 20 cases nationwide. Paschal thought the vote was largely symbolic. “What are the odds?” he recalled thinking. “In my 13 years here, never once did I think of anyone’s immigration status,” he said. “But we got to thinking: ‘How can we call ourselves a church if we don’t love our neighbors?’” This winter, Paschal attended sanctuary training in Denver.

When Sabido’s situation became precarious, the call to action followed a neighborly route that might not have worked so smoothly in a bigger town: She talked with a fellow member of the Montelores Catholic Community who knew about the sanctuary work of the Mancos Methodists. Sabido got Paschal’s email and reached him over Memorial Day weekend, asking for help.

Kane-Rios told her that if she attended her appointment with ICE, “there is a 100 percent possibility that you will be detained,” Sabido said.

Instead, on June 2, Sabido drove her 1995 Toyota Corolla from her doublewide mobile home in Cortez to the fellowship hall on Oak Street. She has yet to leave the quarter-acre property.

For three weeks, volunteers have gathered here to discuss how to keep Sabido safe. They sit around a circle on folding chairs. Behind them, written in marker and stuck with tape to the fake wood-paneled wall, is Margaret Mead’s line: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

When you hike up nearby Menefee Peak above town, you can look down on almost everyone’s home in Mancos Valley. In a town this small, adversaries are never anonymous. We might fear bears or mountain lions, but rarely neighbors. The rhetoric from Washington doesn’t stick.

When asked what she’d tell Trump, Sabido, who will reapply for a change in status in August, said, “I’m sure he has a heart. Maybe he needs to hear my story.”

Rose Sabido speaks in the Mancos United Methodist Church where she has found sanctuary from immigration enforcement.
Maddy Butcher

Maddy Butcher is a writer in Mancos, Colorado.

High Country News Classifieds
  • NORTHERN NEW MEXICO PROJECT MANAGER
    Seeking qualified Northern New Mexico Project Manager to provide expertise, leadership and support to the organization by planning, cultivating, implementing and managing land conservation activities,...
  • REGIONAL TRAIL STEWARDSHIP COORDINATOR
    Are you passionate about connecting people to the outdoors? The Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA) is looking for someone with trail maintenance and volunteer engagement...
  • TRAIL CREW MEMBER
    Position Title: Trail Crew Member Position Type: 6 month seasonal position, April 17-October 15, 2023 Location: Field-based; The RFOV office is in Carbondale, CO, and...
  • CEO BUFFALO NATIONS GRASSLANDS ALLIANCE
    Chief Executive Officer, Remote Exempt position for Buffalo Nations Grasslands Alliance is responsible for the planning and organization of BNGA's day-to-day operations
  • IDAHO DIRECTOR - WESTERN WATERSHEDS PROJECT
    Western Watersheds Project seeks an Idaho Director to continue and expand upon WWP's campaign to protect and restore public lands and wildlife in Idaho, with...
  • DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT, NA'AH ILLAHEE FUND
    Na'ah Illahee Fund (NIF) is seeking a highly qualified Development Director to join our team in supporting and furthering our mission. This position will create...
  • DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS, NA'AH ILLAHEE FUND
    Na'ah Illahee Fund (NIF) is seeking a highly qualified Operations Director to join our team. This position will provide critical organizational and systems support to...
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Grand Staircase Escalante Partners (GSEP) is seeking a leader to join our dynamic team in the long-term protection of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM). We...
  • GRASSLAND RESEARCH COORDINATOR
    The Grassland Research Coordinator is a cooperative position with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that performs and participates in and coordinates data collection for...
  • HYDROELECTRIC PLANT
    1.3 MW FERC licensed hydroelectric station near Taylorsville CA. Property is 184 deeded acres surrounded by National Forrest.
  • "PROFILES IN COURAGE: STANDING AGAINST THE WYOMING WIND"
    13 stories of extraordinary courage including HCN founder Tom Bell, PRBRC director Lynn Dickey, Liz Cheney, People of Heart Mountain, the Wind River Indian Reservation...
  • GRANT WRITER
    JOB DESCRIPTION: This Work involves the responsibility of conducting research in the procurement of Federal, State, County, and private grant funding. Additional responsibilities include identifying...
  • MATADOR RANCH STEWARD
    The Matador Ranch Steward conducts annual stewardship projects at the Matador Ranch Preserve and occasionally supports stewardship projects elsewhere in Montana's Northern Great Plains. The...
  • COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT ASSISTANT
    The Idaho Conservation League is seeking a motivated individual to help build public support for key strategic initiatives in northern Idaho through public outreach and...
  • PROGRAM MANAGER
    Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness Foundation seeks a steward/educator to lead backcountry volunteer projects and community outreach. FT $36k-$40k, competitive time off. ALSO HIRING OPERATIONS MANAGER. More...
  • ASSISTANT RANCH OPERATIONS MANAGER
    WANTED: ASSISTANT RANCH OPERATIONS MANAGER ~ UTAH/COLORADO border ~ Looking to immediately hire an experienced and clean hardworker to join us on a beautiful, very...
  • ASPIRE COLORADO SUSTAINABLE BODY AND HOME CARE PRODUCTS
    Go Bulk! Go Natural! Our products are better for you and better for the environment. Say no to single-use plastic. Made in U.S.A., by a...
  • CANYONLANDS FIELD INSTITUTE
    Field seminars for adults in the natural and human history of the Colorado Plateau, with lodge and base camp options. Small groups, guest experts.
  • CORTEZ COLORADO LOT FOR SALE
    Historic tree-lined Montezuma Ave. Zoned Neighborhood Business. Build your dream house or business right in the heart of town. $74,000. Southwest Realty
  • ENVIRONMENTAL AND CONSTRUCTION GEOPHYSICS
    - We find groundwater, buried debris and assist with new construction projects for a fraction of drilling costs.