Illegal immigrants are finding refuge and evading the law courtesy of a growing number of sanctuary churches. A network of two dozen churches around the United States have vowed to design a safe haven system which federal officials will not dare to invade to conduct deportations.
Sanctuary churches are noted as the latest effort by activists focusing on stopping the deportation of as many illegal immigrants as possible. Earlier this month, President Barack Obama decided not to expand non-deportation policies, angering a multitude of immigration advocacy groups, according to the Washington Times.
Southside Presbyterian Church Reverend Alison Harrington said, "All over the nation, communities of faith are saying we won't break out promise, and so we declare sanctuary. The Tucson, Arizona, pastor also added, "We will continue to fight to keep you with your families."
The Sanctuary 2014 movement currently consists of at least 24 churches in 12 metropolitan areas. According to leaders at the sanctuary churches, the group is currently involved in four active sanctuary or deportation cases. Rosa Robles Loreto is one of the illegal immigrants involved in the deportation proceedings involving the sanctuary churches. Loreto has reportedly exhausted all legal remedies to avoid deportation back to her home country.
The illegal immigrant has been residing at the Southside Presbyterian Church for seven weeks. "She will remain until the day that she can safely return to doing what she loves most – cheering for her 8 and 11-years old boys at their Little League games," the Arizona church pastor said. Harrington went on to contend that the illegal immigrant should not qualify as a "high-priority" deportation target under President Obama's policies.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) functions under a deportation policy which generally prohibits ordering agents into houses of worship to conduct arrests. The same policy also discourages law enforcement officers at the federal agency from going into hospitals and schools, or to rallies and marches, to arrest illegal immigrants. The Department of Homeland Security policy does give ICE agents permission to arrest illegal immigrants in such places if there are "exigent circumstances."
The justice system has ruled both for and against entering churches, hospitals, and schools to arrest individuals in the past. "We're really confident that they [ICE] will not enter into a sacred space of a house of worship." Reverend Harrington said.
Presbyterian Church General Assembly Office of Immigration Issues staffer Teresa Wagner added, "There is a risk involved, but we all answer to a higher calling too."
In 2005, the House of Representatives passed legislation which made it illegal to offer aid to an illegal immigrant attempting to remain in the United States. Many churches objected to the new law, and some wondered if allowing an illegal immigrant to ride in a church van to worship services would cause legal trouble. Exactly how often the law has been imposed remains unclear. As previously reported by The Inquistr, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio recently launched a program offering free zoo tickets, discounts, and other amenities if the they registered for ID cards designed to aid in the effort to find housing and other services.
What do you think about sanctuary churches and sanctuary city activities like the actions engaged in by NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio? Should all illegal immigrants be deported?
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