Man facing deportation takes sanctuary at St. Mark’s Cathedral

Jaime Rubio Sulficio, who has been threatened with deportation, stands with his wife, Keiko Maruyama, and son at the dais of St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral downtown. (Photo courtesy OneAmerica)

A man facing deportation took sanctuary at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, the church announced last week.

Taking up sanctuary at St. Mark’s will give Jaime Rubio Sulficio, a 37-year-old dance instructor and business owner, an additional layer of protection. Due to a broad policy, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has historically stayed away from “sensitive locations” like hospitals and places of worship, ICE spokeswoman Tanya Roman told Real Change.

However, it’s not a guarantee. Roman said this could be subject to change when the circumstances are pressing or if the agency has received prior approval from appropriate supervisory personnel.

Rubio Sulficio is the second undocumented immigrant to take sanctuary in a Seattle-area church, following a 2017 announcement that Seattle-based faith communities would offer safety to undocumented immigrants.

Rubio Sulficio, who has lived in the United States for more than a decade, has regularly applied for and then been granted stay of removal requests after being ordered deported by an immigration judge in 2012. His sixth and most recent request for a stay of removal, however, was denied by the federal government on Nov. 28, 2018.

“They are totally able under the regulations to grant either consecutive stays or what’s called deferred action, which we’ve also asked for, meaning an indefinite stay,” Rubio Sulficio’s attorney, Lori Walls, told the magazine Pacific Standard. “But because of — I imagine anyway — a policy change, they’ve decided not to do this.”

Currently, Rubio Sulficio is seeking legal remedy that would allow him a stay of deportation to Mexico and enable him to reunite with his wife and son, who are both U.S. citizens. At the moment, Sulficio is only able to visit with his spouse and child during the daytime.

Deciding to seek sanctuary was a hard choice for Rubio Sulficio.

“It’s difficult to be apart from my family,” he said in a press release. “I can’t imagine not being able to see my son and wife. I will stay in sanctuary while we find a legal remedy for my situation.”

St. Mark underlined a sense of obligation to help Rubio Sulficio.

“From our faith teachings, we are instructed to care for our neighbors as ourselves and to offer hospitality and kindness to people in need,” the dean of Saint Mark’s, the Very Rev. Steven Thomason, said in a press release. “Such as is the case for Jaime. We will stand with Jaime and his family until he is granted the opportunity to return home and restart his construction business.”

St. Marks’ announcement has been well received by the surrounding community. Michael Ramos, who is on the Church Council of Greater Seattle, lauded the decision

“Local faith communities applaud Saint Mark’s Cathedral for providing sanctuary to Mr. Rubio Sulficio,” Ramos said in a press release. “His courageous step to stop the process of being torn from his family sheds light on the unjust practice of deporting hundreds of thousands of people annually with deep roots in the U.S. and who pose no threat to society.

As of April 2019, the only other undocumented immigrant to take sanctuary in the Puget Sound area is Jose Robles, who moved into downtown Seattle’s Gethsemane Lutheran Church about nine months ago.

According to Real Change, both Rubio Sulficio and Robles said that they wanted their immigration statuses and locations published as a way to inspire hope among others who are facing deportation.

Thomason recently told The Seattle Times that St. Mark’s has a team of about 40 people that have been working to prepare a sanctuary space for prospective guests. The group, which formed about two years ago, came about as a result of the hatred and xenophobia that has increasingly affected the country under the Trump administration

“We didn’t know if and when this day might come,” Thomason told The Seattle Times.

At the conference, Rubio Sulficio and his wife, Keiko Maruyama, said that they planned to keep working to enable Rubio Sulficio to stay in the United States.

Thomason believes that it is pressing that faith communities work hard to provide safe havens for people facing deportation, and that such an action should not be considered a partisan one.

“We believe that he [Rubio Sulficio], as every human does, deserves respect and dignity,” Thomason told Pacific Standard. “And our religious tradition mandates that we honor everyone with respect and dignity and that’s why we’re doing this.”

Correction: an earlier version of this story incorrectly referenced Jaime Rubio Sulficio’s surname.