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*

I study America’s immigration enforcement system. Assistant Professor at TRAC. Graduate of OSU Geography. Online at austinkocher.com.