The Sanctuary Movement in Columbus: Edith Espinal and Miriam Vargas

Edith Espinal has been in sanctuary at the Columbus Mennonite Church for one year in October, 2018.


The modern-day sanctuary movement took inspiration from similar movements of the 1980s in which churches provides safe-havens for Central American refugees fleeing civil conflict. Today’s movement unites congregations from Catholic, Quaker, Unitarian, Mormon, Jewish, Episcopalian and Methodist faiths in a response to the inhumane and unjust policies that detain, deport, and incarcerate migrants seeking relief from circumstances that were not of their choosing. Asserting a faith-based rationale for the creation of inclusive cities where everyone can feel safe, beliefs about the dignity of all people, and support for pathways to legal residency are hallmarks of today’s sanctuary cities, schools, and churches.

Activists, congregations, and some Democratic lawmakers are at the forefront of national calls to abolish ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency), such as Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, winner of the Democratic primary in New York’s 14th congressional district, who has stated: “It’s time to abolish ice, clear the path to citizenship, and protect the rights of families to remain together.”

Columbus, Ohio is home to two women living in sanctuary. Miriam Vargas entered sanctuary on June 27, 2018 at First English Lutheran Church. A mother of two children, ages five and nine, is fighting to stay in Columbus, Ohio with her family.

Miriam Vargas

Edith Espinal was the first woman to go into in sanctuary in Columbus. Edith has been in sanctuary at the Columbus Mennonite Church for one year fighting to stay with her family. A slate of events are scheduled for this Week of Action, culminating in a march and rally on Thursday, October 4. Participants will assemble outside the LaVeque Tower (50 Broad St., Columbus, OH) at 12 PM to call on ICE and elected officials to #LetEdithStay.