Events, TEDxColumbus

Meet the Speakers: Edith Espinal

On Friday, November 16, 2018, fourteen Columbus area residents will become part of the TEDxColumbus community when they present their talks for On the Edge.


Meet Edith Espinal:

After a year in sanctuary, local, undocumented immigrant wants to ‘keep fighting for my family’


by: Cheryl Forcina


Last October, Edith Espinal entered the Columbus Mennonite Church in Columbus’ Clintonville neighborhood seeking refuge from the government’s deportation policies. A year later, the fight in her hasn’t waned; it’s only been strengthened by family, community and time.


When the kitchen inside the Columbus Mennonite Church isn’t already bubbling with activity, Edith Espinal uses it to cook for her family.


“My kids, they like anything I cook,” she said, a proud mom.


But it’s after dinner, during the quiet of weekend evenings when the family settles into the night’s movie, that truly transports Espinal outside the church’s four walls.


“When we’re watching movies, I’m not thinking I’m here in the church,” she said. “I feel like I’m home when my family is here.”


It’s been one year since Espinal’s new normal—as an undocumented immigrant living in the church-turned-sanctuary. Faced with deportation last fall amid headline-grabbing issues like ICE detainment practices and the government’s hardline stance on immigration, Espinal drew community support, particularly from the Clintonville church and its congregation.


“It was very difficult the first days or months,” she said of being in sanctuary. During this time, one of her sons endured surgery for appendicitis and—like any sick child—asked for his mother. “This scared me because I couldn’t stay with him,” she recalled. “I felt like I was going crazy because I didn’t know what was going on with my son. Any mom (would feel) like that.”


In the year that has followed, Espinal’s resolve has only intensified as she absorbs all the behind-the-scenes efforts toward her freedom.  “I’m learning every day … how to organize, do events and rallies,” Espinal continued. “I want to know, how’s my case? How can we organize better?”


All the while, the Columbus mom’s day-to-day—which includes morning visits from her daughter to help her youngest get ready for school—helps give the Espinals a semblance of, well … a normal routine.


In the meantime, her fight continues. And Espinal is nowhere near giving up. “I feel like I can do this; it’s made me strong, and the support of community has made me strong,” she said. “I know now where I’m going: to get legal status for me and my family.”


Edith Espinal had been living in Columbus with her husband and three children for 20 years before the threat of deportation led her to seek sanctuary in October 2017 at the Columbus Mennonite Church. She first came to the U.S. with her father as a 16-year-old trying to escape drug cartel violence on the streets of her native Mexico. Espinal later petitioned for asylum on behalf of her family; it was denied in 2015. Early last year, all her appeals were denied, and in August 2017, she was ordered to leave the country. She urges other undocumented immigrants to “keep fighting. If we don’t fight for ourselves, no one else will do it for us.” Get updates on Espinal’s continued fight against deportation on Facebook’s Solidarity With Edith Espinal page.