The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is proud to announce that Luis Lopez Acabal was able to leave the protection of Sanctuary at University Presbyterian Church in Tempe, Arizona on Friday, December 12. He is one of nine immigrants this year to shield themselves from deportation as part of the new Sanctuary Movement. From September 4 of this year to last Friday, 100 days exactly, Luis lived inside University Presbyterian to prevent his deportation and separation from his family. Luis is eligible for deportation relief through the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) Program, announced on November 20, because he is stepfather to his wife Mayra’s two children.
J. Herbert Nelson, Director of the Presbyterian Office of Public Witness stated, “We greatly rejoice in this good news. It sends a signal that the work we do in Washington, D.C., in local congregations, and across the denomination is necessary when our immigrant brothers and sisters are being denied human dignity and full inclusion in society. Luis, his family and the congregation of University Presbyterian demonstrated courage and a deep faith conviction by claiming the power of sanctuary. It is this type of courage that will make the PCUSA more relevant in these times.”
|Our delegation with Luis, Rev. Ledermann, and church members.|
A delegation of Presbyterian leaders, including Rev. Gradye Parsons (PCUSA General Assembly Stated Clerk), Rev. J. Herbert Nelson II (PCUSA Office of Public Witness Director), Teresa Waggener (PCUSA Office of Immigration Director), Rev. Toya Richards Jackson, (Office of General Assembly Associate for Communications), Randy Hobson (Office of General Assembly Web Services Coordinator) and AmyBeth Willis (Office of Public Witness Young Adult Volunteer), met with Luis, Mayra, Pastor Eric O. Ledermann, and congregation and community members on Thursday, December 4 during their Immigrant Solidarity Pilgrimage to the border.
Luis left Guatemala at the age of 17, fleeing because a local gang threatened his life. He applied for asylum, but was denied. Here, he has made a life, working in maintenance in schools. He fell in love and married Mayra Canales, a legal resident from Mexico and mother of two U.S. citizen children, one of whom has autism. Luis has become father to her two children, Kevin (5) and Kimberly (2). He is the sole breadwinner for the family, allowing Mayra to act as a full time caregiver for their children. Kevin has thrived in the new family setting and some of his autism-related behaviors have diminished. Luis’ support as a loving husband and parenting partner has made a huge difference in Mayra’s battle with depression and anxiety. When Luis was ordered to leave the country, University Presbyterian stepped up to provide Sanctuary to him. The congregation has embraced him and his family for 100 long days, recognizing that his deportation threatens not only his life but the wellbeing of his family.
|Mayra & Luis with daughter Kimberly. Credit: Alonso Parra, Left Lamp Media|
Luis is happy to be home, but remains in legal limbo as he waits to apply for the new deferred action program, which grants temporary relief from deportation and a work permit. In reflecting on this great news, Rev. Eric Ledermann, pastor of University Presbyterian said, “I am thrilled that Luis gets to go home and be with his family. However, our work is not done. The President’s Executive Action is temporary and we still have a lot of work to do to fix the broken immigration system.”