Wednesday morning, Ingrid Encalada Latorre will leave the safety of the Mountain View Friends Meeting for the first time since she announced she would take sanctuary there to avoid deportation nearly six months ago.
She plans to be present in front of a Jefferson County judge whom she hopes will start the legal process to reduce a felony identity theft charge to a misdemeanor. Latorre purchased immigration documents that she says she later learned were stolen.
Immigration officials might not pursue Latorre if her past charges are revised. That is, if she’s not apprehended by federal officials when she goes to court.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been known to use courthouses to identify and detain people who are wanted on immigration violations, and the presence of ICE officers in Denver courthouses has stirred controversy in recent months. In early April, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock wrote a formal letter to the agency asking that they not make arrests in the city’s courthouses. An ICE representative said they do not consider courthouses to be “sensitive locations” — and Latorre is slated to appear in Jefferson County, not Denver.
Nonetheless, Latorre plans on appearing. Jennifer Piper, an organizer with the American Friends Service Committee who helped Latorre enter sanctuary, said, “She’s still determined.”
An ICE spokesman was not immediately prepared to comment on the case.
Latorre has called the University of Denver Quaker meeting home since December. Members of the congregation routinely stop by to see how she’s doing and see if she needs anything. She has a dedicated pantry in the congregation’s kitchen and her own suite. Her younger son, Anibal, learned to walk here.
Living inside a church has so far been better than being deported, but Latorre says her time in isolation has begun to get to her. She misses her elder son, Bryant, who lives with a friend who helps to him get to school each day. But even more difficult is the felony charge that’s landed her here, one she and advocates say was the result of bad legal advice. She’s determined to prove that she’s worthy of staying in the U.S.
Dark clouds were cast over that possibility when Arturo Hernandez Garcia was picked up by ICE officers last week. Garcia, who has no criminal history other than entering the country illegally, spent nine months in sanctuary in Capitol Hill’s First Unitarian Society of Denver to avoid removal proceedings. His case was de-prioritized in 2015, enough so that he felt safe to leave the church. He’d lived a normal life in the open until his arrest.
On Good Friday, Mountain View was full of Latorre’s supporters who surrounded and prayed for her safe passage. They have called for a caravan to accompany her to court in the morning, hoping a show of numbers might sway officials to give her a chance to have her case heard.
We’ll be there and let you know what happens.