Miriam embracing another person

Miriam Vargas walked into First English Lutheran Church on June 29, 2018 and was sheltered by the church in sanctuary from a deportation order issued by  Immigration, Customs and Enforcement (ICE).

Nearly 1000 days later, on February 23, 2021, she walked out of the ICE office in Westerville, Ohio freedom. Due to a memo send to ICE on January 20, 2021 from the Biden administration, priorities were set to deport only undocumented individuals that were aggravated felons. 

Previously, the Trump administration determined that all undocumented and documented immigrants were subject to deportation.

Miriam is currently in no danger of removal.

Miriam is now under an Order of Supervision (OSUP) which is a way that ICE can keep tabs on immigrants before immigration court hearings.

According to Ms. Vargas' immigration attorney, Jessica Rodriquez Bell, the benefits of the OSUP are that Miriam Vargas can leave the sanctuary of the church without the threat of deportation. She is required to report weekly to ICE via telephone to document where she is located.

She can also apply for and obtain a work permit and legally obtain a driver’s licence.

If she leaves the state she would need to ask for permission one week ahead of traveling.

Bell explained that now there is a waiting period to see what laws or orders are generated in Washington DC from our lawmakers or the president himself. However, Bell stated that with the sudden turn of events from the Biden administration there is hope that a pathway to citizenship is in the future.

The announcement was a relief for her two American daughters who have been housed in the church with their mother. Upon notification to Miriam's oldest daughter, her response was to burst into tears, an observable demonstration of the stress the children have been living with in the past two and a half plus years.

First English Lutheran Church Pastor Sally Padgett sums up the past 1000 days as a miracle of the power of prayer from all the supporters of the First English Lutheran Church. She credits the new administration for taking on immigration as a priority.

In the words of the late local immigration activist Ruben Castilla Herrera, sanctuary is not the answer, but a process of hope for certain people, especially given the state of the country that can change tweet to tweet, moment to moment.

In Miriam’s case sanctuary served as the process to freedom.