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"They Repress Us Because We're Poor": Immigrant Rights Activist Speaks from Sanctuary in Colorado

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As President Trump continues his crackdown on immigrant communities, a growing number of people are taking sanctuary in churches across the country to avoid deportation. A new report called "Sanctuary in the Age of Trump" says more people are now taking sanctuary than at any time in the United States since the 1980s. We end today's show in Colorado, speaking to another immigrant rights leader, Sandra Lopez, who has taken sanctuary at the parsonage of the Two Rivers Unitarian Universalist church in Carbondale, Colorado. She is now facing deportation to Mexico after living in Colorado for 17 years. She's a mother of three U.S.-born children: Alex, Edwin and Areli.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I'm Amy Goodman. As President Trump continues his crackdown on immigrant communities, a growing number of immigrants are taking sanctuary in churches across the country to avoid deportation. A new report called "Sanctuary in the Age of Trump" says more people are now taking sanctuary than at any time in the United States since the '80s.

We end today's show in Colorado, where we hear from another immigrant rights leader who has taken sanctuary: Sandra Lopez, now facing deportation to Mexico after living in Colorado for 17 years, mother of three U.S. citizen children -- Alex, Edwin and Areli. This is Sandra Lopez speaking to supporters who marched to the Two Rivers Unitarian Universalist Church in Carbondale, Colorado, as part of their Women's March just a week ago.

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SANDRA LOPEZ: [translated] We are all defenders of human rights. And I think that human dignity is not based on one legal paper. I have lost the fear of lifting up my voice. Why? Because I'm a human being. I have feelings, just like you. I love my children, just like you.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, a few weeks ago, I visited Sandra Lopez at the parsonage of the Two Rivers Unitarian Universalist Church in Carbondale, Colorado. I began by asking her why she came to the United States 17 years ago.

SANDRA LOPEZ: [translated] Well, I came to the United States with my husband. We had many dreams. Of course, I was running from a corrupt government, a lot of poverty and violence. We came with many dreams. We are poor, honest, hard-working people, and we have dreams, dreams of getting ahead. But, unfortunately, being a migrant in this country holds a very high price, and we are unjustly persecuted, oftentimes unjustly just because we don't have a legal document, legal papers, here in the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: How old were you when you came to the United States?

SANDRA LOPEZ: [translated] I was about 24 years old, and it was very dangerous. I tried to cross the border with my husband. The person who was going to take us across was totally drunk, and it was obvious. I told my husband, "How are we going to cross with this man? He's falling down, he's so drunk. It's very dangerous. We might be going along the road with him and suffer a bad accident and die." And so, of course, I refused. I absolutely refused. We were a large group, about 13 of us. We started talking, analyzing the situation. And we refused. We agreed not to cross the border with him. And I told him, I told this coyote, "Please, leave us in the desert. I would rather be sleeping in the desert than risking my life with you. If you are going to take me across, come in a sound state of mind."

Well, we then slept all night in the desert. We went about a day and a half with no water. We were hungry. We saw scorpions going by near where we were. We even saw a snake. And we didn't sleep all night, out of fear. But then the coyote came back in a good state of mind, and we were able to cross.

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AMY GOODMAN: And so, how did you end up here in Carbondale?

SANDRA LOPEZ: [translated] Now, living in Carbondale, I'm living with a lot of fear, a lot of fear because I'm under the shadow of fear. I'm being persecuted because I don't have papers. What they don't understand is that my best legal papers are being a mother. I don't need a legal document to be a mother, to be able to defend my love for my children. I give everything for them. I give my life for them, everything for my children, my family. And any sacrifice that I might make for them -- anything -- it's going to be worthwhile, because, for me, the material things don't make sense. Money doesn't make sense. For me, what makes sense is my role, giving myself over to them as in my role as a mother. It is such a beautiful career to be a mother, to be a father. And now I'm facing the threat of separation, and that has really hurt my feelings, wounded my heart.

AMY GOODMAN: Tell me about your children. How old are they? What are their names? Where are they living now?

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