Think Progress: As Federal Government Launches New Deportation Raids, Churches Vow To Take In Immigrants

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From Think Progress:

by Jack Jenkins

Churches across the country are gearing up to defy the federal government’s deportation efforts, preparing to offer Central American asylum-seekers sanctuary in their churches and protect them from an aggressive new wave of federal raids.

Shortly after New Year’s Day 2016, the Obama administration launched a barrage of highly publicized raids primarily intended to detain and deport Central American immigrants who came to the United States to escape increasingly horrific gang violence in their home countries. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) forcibly apprehended at least 121 people in the first two days of the raids — most of whom were Central American mothers with children — and has promised more raids in the future. So far, four people have already been deported back to countries such as El Salvador, even though the nation is now the murder capital of the world and the U.S. Peace Corps has pulled its people from the region, citing safety concerns.

But a growing number of U.S. churches are working to defend the immigrants, vowing to harbor them in worship halls to protect them from ICE raids. The multi-faith effort is a new wave of what advocates call the New Sanctuary Movement, a network of faith communities formed in 2014 that let undocumented immigrants facing deportation take up residence in their holy spaces — a practice that utilizes the government’s longstanding unofficial policy of not raiding churches, schools, and hospitals.

Several faith leaders trumpeted their willingness to challenge the federal government’s deportation policies at a press event in late December, where a cadre of faith leaders and advocates spoke out against the impending raids and held signs reading “Protection not deportation” in English and Spanish. Among the speakers was Rev. Alison Harrington, pastor of Southside Presbyterian Church in Tuscon, Arizona, which has successfully offered taken in two undocumented immigrants since 2014.

“We were pretty appalled that our government would be doing this,” Harrington told ThinkProgress. “People are just so appalled that we would be deporting asylum seekers.”

“There is a huge swath of people who see this issue as a part of their faith,” she added. She then made reference to Jesus Christ’s biblical instruction to take in travelers in need, saying, “There is a call to welcome the stranger and help those who are suffering.”

Read the full article from Think Progress