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Edith Espinal: An Immigrant Mom’s Relentless Pursuit for Home and Happiness


Living in a home that didn’t include her husband or three children is not a reality that Edith Espinal ever considered. Neither was living in a church. But the story of their fractured family has become all to familiar in a nation that too often puts immigrant families in cages instead of communities.

Since October 2, 2017, Espinal has lived in an Ohio Mennonite church, where she is seeking sanctuary from deportation.

“I make the decision to come to sanctuary because I don’t want my family to separate,” she said.

Espinal is one of at least four people living in sanctuary in Ohio right now. She first came to the United States over 23 years ago, following her father. She was the first official member of the Central Ohio Worker Center and has been involved in worker and immigrant rights organizing since 2014.

In 2017, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) ordered Espinal’s deportation. Though she had been cooperative with ICE for many years, deportation was now inevitable.

“I have family waiting for me,” Espinal said.

Although Espinal remains in the same city with her family, she misses much of their day-to-day lives. Right now, she can’t watch her son Brandow play soccer, shop with her daughter Stephanie or play with their family dog, Bella. The determined mom longs for home.

Not only is Espinal committed to securing justice for herself, she also endeavors to launch a business that will empower of other immigrants to advocate for themselves.

“We have dreams,” she said. “I am working really hard to show this government that [immigrants] are coming here to have a better life and opportunity.”

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