TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — A Mexican man who violated an order to leave the United States by taking sanctuary in a Tucson church will remain there despite immigration officials’ announcement that they won’t try to deport him.
Daniel Neyoy Ruiz was supposed to leave the country by the end of Tuesday after being caught by immigration authorities following a traffic stop in Tucson.
Neyoy Ruiz refused to leave and instead took sanctuary at Southside Presbyterian Church on Tuesday afternoon.
On Thursday, U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement said they would not seek to immediately deport Neyoy Ruiz.
“After conducting a thorough review of Mr. Ruiz’s immigration case, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has decided to exercise prosecutorial discretion by not taking immediate action on Mr. Ruiz’s removal order,” spokeswoman Amber Cargile wrote in a statement.
But that doesn’t sufficiently keep Neyoy Ruiz safe from deportation, a representative of his said.
The 36-year-old maintenance supervisor at a Tucson apartment complex will continue to live in the church with his wife and American-born son.
“The long and short of it is that while it’s certainly very comforting to know that the ICE removal operations don’t plan on raiding the church and taking Daniel away, this move, while it’s a small step, it’s just that — a small step,” said Sarah Lanius an immigration rights activist working with Neyoy Ruiz.
Neyoy Ruiz still faces too many risks in Tucson because it falls under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Border Patrol, Lanius said.
The announcement by ICE also only means that the agency won’t actively seek him out, not that the order for him to be deported is canceled.
Neyoy Ruiz said he does not want to separate from his family, especially his 13-year-old son, who is an American citizen. He does not have a prior criminal record and contributes to his community and church, Neyoy Ruiz said.
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.