Instead of showing up to Denver International Airport to have her GPS ankle bracelet removed and board a flight to Peru, Ingrid Encalada defied deportation orders on Tuesday for the second time in a year. With her two kids in tow, she drove this morning to Foothills Unitarian Church in Fort Collins to live in sanctuary once again.
It’s been nearly a year since we reported on Encalada’s first entrance into sanctuary at a Quaker church near the University of Denver. She lived there for nine months to avoid deportation. In May, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) allowed her the summer to see a judge. Since she left sanctuary in May, the 34-year-old has balanced her two children’s well-being, immigration check-ins, court dates and a hard-fought public campaign to remain in the United States.
She told Denverite that she made the decision to return to sanctuary at the last moment. Despite purchased tickets, she said, she felt like she couldn’t go back.
“I’m broken,” she said over the phone as she made her way north. “Right now I just want quiet. I don’t know my plan.”
Later, she elaborated in a press release from the American Friends Service Committee, which is supporting her.
“Until last night, I truly believed I had made peace with the difficult decision to be deported to Peru, taking my two sons with me and splitting our family,” Encalada said. “I was too tired to keep fighting and to face the long term prospects of sanctuary. I was hopeful I’d find a way to start my life over again. But then, last Thursday, reality started to hit.
“Bryant, my older son, begged me not to go, not to force him to leave our home and his school. My aunt, recently returned from Peru, shared with me the devastating poverty Peru is facing in the aftermath of Venezuela’s economic crisis. It may seem like a small thing, but Anibal has a bad cold and there’s no health clinic where my family lives in Peru. I decided, I have to be strong for my family. I have to do what’s best for my children. I have to fight for them and for my community.”
A quick recap:
In 2010, Encalada pleaded guilty to felony identity theft charges for purchasing stolen employment credentials. She entered sanctuary to buy time and try to change her conviction to a misdemeanor; this might have allowed her to re-open her immigration case. She alleged that not one, but two, separate legal counsels fighting the identity-theft charge were negligent in representing her. She handily won the first case, but the Jefferson County judge sided against her in the second. She had few alternatives as deportation drew closer.
As a last resort, she spent weeks visiting Hickenlooper’s office and rallying on the Capitol steps. They hoped he would pardon her crime, but in early September, Hickenlooper declined.
She’d spent the last couple of weeks making preparations to leave.
In addition to her public campaign, Encalada has been fighting for custody of her elder son, Bryant, and fretting over her younger son Anibal’s health. She said a doctor told her that Anibal, nearly two, doesn’t speak as much as he should. He’s also been seen by an eye specialist in recent months. She says she’s concerned that she won’t be able to access the same level of care for her kids in Peru. Her parents’ village, she told Denverite, is in an extremely rural area without such services.
While she was preparing to leave, she made sure to get a passport for Bryant. She made doctor appointments for Anibal. But last week, she said, he got sick again. That swayed her decision.
“It’s hard to go back to my country. It’s hard to stay in sanctuary again. I want to keep my family together,” she told Denverite. “They don’t give me any choice.”
Despite a sending-off ceremony at the Quaker church near DU, despite making rounds to say goodbye to folks like Araceli Velasquez, the most recent person in Denver to take sanctuary, Encalada will not be leaving the country today.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is bound by a set of best practices that say “enforcement actions are not to occur” in “sensitive locations,” like churches and synagogues. This means Encalada likely will be able to remain in the U.S. so long as she stays inside Foothills Unitarian. ICE has not broken this policy in any of the sanctuary cases that have occurred in Colorado in recent years.
But Encalada is still nervous about her future.
“I don’t know if they’re coming for me or not,” she said.
With many of her legal options exhausted, it’s not clear where she might go from here.