A New Documentary “A Shelter for Edith” Takes Audiences Inside a Sanctuary Church
I first met Edith Espinal at a meeting with Rubén Castilla Herrera and the Columbus Mennonite Church back in 2017 when I was on the board of the Central Ohio Worker Center. Edith was trying to keep her family together in the face of a deportation order. She had been trying for years to find a path to legalization, but in the end, the Trump administration wanted Edith gone — despite the fact that she lived in the U.S. for over two decades and had her whole family here.
In a last-ditch effort to keep her family together, Edith, community organizers and the Mennonite church came together to support Edith’s transition into life inside of a sanctuary church. Edith remained in that church for over three years, eventually outlasting the Trump administration, and she was recently given a temporary stay on her deportation. Some of us who worked with Edith during her stay in sanctuary got a glimpse of what her life was like. But the full story of her experience in sanctuary is only now coming to light.
Elisa Stone Leahy and Matthew Leahy, two filmmakers and members of the church, produced a documentary film that follows Edith through much of her experience, especially during the pandemic when suddenly everyone had to spend their life in isolation as Edith had for years. That film, “A Shelter for Edith”, premiers this month, and I encourage you to check it out. The trailer for the film and the official press release are both provided below. It’s a heartwarming and heartbreaking look at the immigration system.
Press Release from Noonday Films*
“A new documentary film, A Shelter for Edith, uses rare footage to take audiences on a journey alongside Edith Espinal, a woman facing deportation who is trying to keep her family together by living inside a sanctuary church in Columbus, Ohio.
After years of searching for a pathway to legal status, the Trump administration’s new deportation policies put Edith at risk of being forced to leave her family and the country she called home for more than 20 years. With no options left, Edith took refuge in Columbus Mennonite Church with the hope that immigration officials would not arrest her while she remained inside.
While the world grappled with pandemic isolation, Edith was living through an isolation of her own that lasted for more than three years. A Shelter for Edith sheds light on the solitary life of one undocumented woman and the threat that sent her indoors — not the pandemic, but the fear that the US immigration system could tear her family apart.
Noonday Films, a production company with ties to the sanctuary movement and immigration activism in Columbus, directed and produced the film. Filmmakers Elisa and Matthew Leahy follow her story as she struggles with the United States’ broken immigration system to find a path to legal status — before it’s too late.
Elisa Stone Leahy, director of A Shelter for Edith, described her experience making the film. “I first met Edith when she took sanctuary in our church in 2017. She has since become a close friend. As part of her advocacy team I have had the honor of learning from her steadfast commitment to justice, her passion for change and her unending strength in the face of a powerful and unjust system.”
Elisa can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Shelter for Edith premiers on September 18 at the New York Latino Film Festival. More information about the film can be found here.”