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Updated May 13, 2014 - 9:25 pm

Man ordered to return to Mexico takes sanctuary in Arizona church

TUCSON, Ariz. — Daniel Neyoy Ruiz would rather be indefinitely confined to
the inside of a church than move back to Mexico, as the federal government has
requested he do.

Neyoy Ruiz, a 36-year-old maintenance supervisor at a Tucson apartment complex,
refused to obey an order to leave the country by the end of Tuesday. Neyoy Ruiz
entered the United States illegally in 2000. In 2011, an Arizona Department of
Public Safety officer turned Neyoy Ruiz over to immigration officials after
pulling him over because his exhaust pipe released too much smoke, his attorney
said.

He lost a series of immigration court cases and was ordered to leave the
country.

Instead, he is taking sanctuary at Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson. His
wife and American-born son will join him.

Although there is no law preventing immigration agents from taking Neyoy Ruiz
into custody now, the church has been seen as a public sanctuary for immigrants
for nearly three decades.

Neyoy Ruiz said he does not want to separate from his family, especially his
13-year-old son, who is an American citizen. He said he does not have a prior
criminal record and contributes to his community and church.

“I want to be with my family to support them in everything I can,” he said in
Spanish. “I want to have a voice because it’s not just me. There are a lot of
people like this.”

More than 20 percent of deportees claim to have American-born children.

Neyoy Ruiz’s attorney, Margo Cowan, has filed an administrative request with
the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to close the case. That means that
ICE would not make it a priority to deport Neyoy Ruiz and that he would continue
to live in the U.S.

Cowan said she is confident ICE officials will close the case because the
agency has shifted deportation priorities to immigrants with criminal records
and prior deportations.

A spokeswoman for ICE said the agency was conducting a comprehensive review of
the case.

Neyoy Ruiz said he will live in the church as long as it takes. He said fears
of being separated from his family and the repercussions of ignoring the order
to leave keep him awake at night.

“But I know — I’m sure — that if I don’t do this, it’s going to be worse because
I’m going to lose. I’m not going to throw in the towel,” he said.

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