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Council Passes Resolution Supporting Undocumented Immigrants in Sanctuary

Lauren Sega Lauren Sega Council Passes Resolution Supporting Undocumented Immigrants in SanctuaryStephanie Gonzalez, Edith Espinal's daughter, addresses City Council.
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It’s a symbolic gesture, but Columbus City Council has passed a resolution in support of two undocumented residents currently in sanctuary. The resolution, introduced and passed on Monday, Feb. 25, recognizes the economic and social impact of immigrants on Columbus and calls on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to handle the cases of Edith Espinal and Miriam Vargas with favorable discretion. 

Espinal and Vargas have been confined to the grounds of Columbus Mennonite Church and the First English Lutheran Church, respectively, as they take legal action toward permanent residency. Espinal, a mother of three from Mexico, entered sanctuary on Oct. 2, 2017, and marked her 500th day in sanctuary on Valentine’s Day this year. Vargas, from Honduras, entered sanctuary with her two daughters last July.

“Agradeciendo al Presidente Shannon Hardin de City Council por acompañarnos esta Mañana y como siempre ofreciendo su Apollo ala Resolución le pido ala Comunidad por Favor Apoyen Mañana la Resolución Gracias Bendiciones,” Espinal posted on Facebook the day before Council passed its resolution. Translated, the post reads, “Thanking President Shannon Hardin of City Council for joining us this morning and as always for offering his support for a resolution. I ask the community, please support the resolution tomorrow, thanks and blessings.”

During the Council meeting, Hardin and Councilmember Elizabeth Brown spoke out against federal immigration laws and discourse, citing aggressive deportation tactics and the demonization of immigrants. Both expressed sentiments that there is “one Columbus,” in which both undocumented and documented people participate.

“We know that needlessly breaking apart families through aggressive deportation weakens our city and our country, and the wellbeing of immigrant communities is intertwined with our overall wellbeing as a city,” Brown said.

Present at the Council meeting were supporters of Espinal, including Columbus Mennonite Church Pastor Joel Miller, congregant Austin McCabe Juhnke, and Espinal’s daughter Stephanie Gonzalez. Each spoke separately to elaborate on Espinal’s struggle and her hope for a return to her family and their home on the West Side.

“After so many months of my mom fighting for this opportunity, it was finally given to us. This will help us get one step closer for me and my family to be reunited,” Gonzalez said. “The journey has not been easy at all, it has been really difficult for me and my family, but I know that we’ll make it out and we’re going to be together.”

After testimony from Miller, Juhnke and Gonzalez, Council voted on the resolution, passing it unanimously.

“This is a ceremonial resolution. The truth is, when we take this vote in a few seconds, it won’t change Edith or Miriam’s predicament,” Hardin said. “But, what is important about this resolution is that we draw attention that these women, these mothers, these family members are away from their families, that they are within what can generously be called holy prisons.”

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