A cross with a painting of Jesus Christ hangs over the alter at Westminster Cathedral.

‘Sanctuary Churches’ Offer Protection To Immigrants Facing Crackdown From Trump

In his first days in office, President Donald Trump began cracking down on illegal immigrants, and even those legally traveling to the U.S. from several predominately-Muslim nations.

His executive order that placed a temporary travel ban on people from seven Muslim nations faced fierce public opposition that manifested in huge protests at airports and other venues across the country. Federal judges have since blocked the ban.

What has received considerably less attention — although it has still attracted media coverage and inspired protests — is his executive order aimed at “enhancing public safety in the interior of the united states.”

The order is focused primarily on increasing the number of deportations of illegal immigrants by expanding the definition of who is prioritized for removal. The new guidelines include anyone who has been convicted of “any criminal offense” or who has even merely “been charged with any criminal offense, where such charge has not been resolved” or “committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense.”

The order also directs the attorney general and Secretary of Homeland Security to block grants to any so-called “sanctuary city,” or a city that will “willfully refuse to comply” with federal immigration laws.

The executive order even prioritizes deporting those who simply crossed the border illegally, which is only a misdemeanor.

“Trump has since praised the ‘crackdown on illegal criminals,’ a key component of his campaign platform. And while the number of ICE arrests have remained level, there are reports of immigrants with nonviolent records (who usually were an exception under Obama-era deportation policy) now facing deportation as a result of Trump’s executive order,” Emma Niles writes for Truthdig.

To highlight the often harsh realities of Trump’s order, Niles looks at the example of Guadalupe García De Rayos, a mother-of-two, whose deportation was covered by The Guardian.

“Guadalupe García de Rayos, a 36-year-old mother of two U.S. citizens, was a non-violent felon who had for years complied with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) orders after being convicted of using a fake social security number to work,” Griselda Nevarez wrote in an article for The Guardian. “But on Wednesday, when she went for her usual check-in, ICE agents took her into custody instead, separating her from her husband and children, who were waiting outside.”

The deportation of García De Rayos sparked protests in Phoenix, Arizona.

In support of sanctuary cities, and the immigrant community, in the face of the growing number of deportations, many of which tear families like Garcia De Rayos’ apart, churches across the country are stepping up to offer additional support to immigrants.

“Sanctuary churches are not a new concept,” Niles notes. “The Obama administration was responsible for massive deportations, and many churches offered protection to undocumented immigrants during President Obama’s time in office.”

Niles sites an NPR report that says “dozens of churches and other faith communities” are vowing to protect undocumented immigrants despite Trump’s executive order.

“We have to stand with the oppressed even if the law of the land sometimes doesn’t exactly coincide with the teachings of peace and justice and love found in Scripture,” said Seth Kaper-Dale, pastor of the Reformed Church of Highland Park in New Jersey, according to Niles.

The First Unitarian Society in Denver, which is housing Mexican immigrant Jeanette Vizguerra and her four children, is another example of a sanctuary church that Niles provides.

“[The] message that I would like to say to President Trump is, I’m just a mother who wants to work hard for her children and be with her family,” Vizguerra told Amy Goodman via a translator during a Democracy Now! interview quoted by Niles. “I wish that you would think of the harm that you’re causing my children.”

[Featured Image by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images]

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