Legal victory for mom taking sanctuary in Chapel Hill church

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- A legal victory for Rosa Ortez-Cruz, an undocumented immigrant who has been taking sanctuary in a Chapel Hill church for nearly two years.

"She got news from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals up in Richmond that they have decided a unanimous decision to withdraw her deportation order, something we've been waiting for, we've been praying for, for over a year now," said Pastor Isaac Villegas, of Chapel Hill Mennonite Fellowship.

"I'm very happy," Ortez-Cruz said.

But it doesn't mean she can leave the church just yet, without being detained or deported.

"She'll be leaving this church as soon as her attorneys say that they're completely certain that she will be safe beyond church property," Villegas said.

Chapel Hill Mennonite Fellowship and Church of Reconciliation partnered to provide sanctuary to the victim of domestic violence. Ortez-Cruiz, a mother of four, said her ex-partner tried to kill her in her native Honduras and that she's afraid to go back.

She lived in Greensboro before seeking sanctuary in Chapel Hill.

Ortez-Cruz said she's grateful to the religious leaders and volunteers who have supported her. A volunteer sleeps in a room near hers every night, on the lookout for ICE.

She spends her time cooking for people at the church, knitting and sewing. She said she has everything she needs, everything but her freedom.

"There were days I'd be depressed," she said. "I didn't want to leave (my room). I would say another day I have nothing to do."

She's hopeful that will soon change. Ortez-Cruz said the thought of being with her children again keeps her motivated.

The congregation is gathering this evening to celebrate the court's decision.
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