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Immigrant Who Sought Sanctuary In Arizona Church Can Stay In U.S.

Daniel Neyoy Ruiz, 36, moved into a Tucson church with his family last month, claiming sanctuary as he sought a reversal in his deportation order.
Fernanda Echavarri
Arizona Public Media
Daniel Neyoy Ruiz, 36, moved into a Tucson church with his family last month, claiming sanctuary as he sought a reversal in his deportation order.

After a month of seeking sanctuary in a Tucson church, a Mexican immigrant has been granted a one-year stay of his deportation order. Daniel Neyoy Ruiz, 36, had been ordered to leave the U.S. after a traffic stop revealed he wasn't here legally.

Ruiz has lived in Tucson for 14 years; he has a job and no criminal record, reports Arizona Public Media's Fernanda Echavarri.

The traffic stop that derailed his life came three years ago, due to a tailpipe that was putting out smoky exhaust. The federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency recently ordered him to report to its offices to be deported.

That led Ruiz to seek refuge in a church that famously offered sanctuary to Central American immigrants decades ago. On Monday, he was told his request for a stay had been granted.

"The news brought tears of joy to Ruiz, his wife and teenage son inside Southside Presbyterian Church, where they have been living since May 13," Echavarri reports.

The one-year stay would seem to follow President Obama's calls for immigration officials to focus on criminal cases. Despite that shift, immigration activists recently said the Obama administration is "on pace to deport some 2 million illegal immigrants since taking office six years ago," as NPR's Richard Gonzales reported in March.

The church Ruiz and his family lived in has a history of helping immigrants. Arizona Public Media's Echavarri says it was "the original church to offer sanctuary to Central American immigrants fleeing civil wars in several countries in the early 1980s," inspiring a network of sanctuary churches to be established across the U.S.

"We want to use me as an example for people like me who are in trouble," Ruiz tells Echavarri, "so they can go to a church and keep fighting to stay with their families."

Local KGUN TV says many people pitched in to help Ruiz:

"Over the course of the past month thousands of phone calls, emails and faxes have been sent to Cecilia Munoz, Assistant to the President and Director of the Domestic Policy Council, and Jeh Johnson, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, urging them to keep the Neyoy Ruiz family together."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.