Daniel Neyoy Ruiz, 36, had been ordered to report for voluntary
deportation in May. But in a high-profile challenge to U.S.
immigration policy he instead turned to a Tucson church whose
leaders were involved in a movement to give sanctuary to Central
American refugees in the 1980s.
After spending nearly a month in the church, Neyoy Ruiz was notified
by immigration officials on Monday that he had been granted a
one-year stay, which can be renewed annually and includes a work
permit. A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman
confirmed a stay of removal had been issued.
"I cried," Neyoy Ruiz said of the decision granting him a stay,
which had been twice denied previously. "I cried out of happiness
and we hugged each other knowing that this was done."
Neyoy Ruiz, who has a teenage son who is a U.S. citizen, was ordered
to report for voluntary deportation stemming from a 2011 traffic
stop. After he took refuge in the church on May 13, immigration
officials said they would not immediately act to deport him. Now
that a stay has been granted, the family plans to leave the church.
"Danielís case is not exceptional, and the fact that he was never
granted prosecutorial discretion and then later denied a stay of
removal should be reviewed by immigration officials," said Margo
Cowan, the family's lawyer.
Federal immigration officials have focused their enforcement efforts
on stopping illegal border crossers and deporting unauthorized
immigrants convicted of crimes. Ruiz has never been convicted of a
crime, his attorney said.
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Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration
Reform, which seeks to limit numbers entering the United States,
criticized the action.
"While law enforcement agencies should prioritize cases, there's no
reason that a deportation order shouldn't be enforced," Mehlman
Neyoy Ruiz is not the first immigrant to turn to a church for refuge
from deportation. In 2006, Mexican immigrant activist Elvira
Arellano famously entered a Chicago church and stayed there for a
year, but was ultimately deported.
(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Lisa Shumaker)
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