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Congressional Inaction Spurs Churches to Open Their Doors to Immigrants

Thumbnail image for Children crossing the borderRecently, President Obama disappointed hundreds of thousands of foreign nationals and immigrant rights advocate groups when he announced that he would not be taking executive action on immigration reform until after the November elections.

In the face of this delay, the nation’s religious leaders have taken up the mantle and are now offering undocumented foreign nationals protection from deportation in an initiative dubbed the Sanctuary Movement.

The Sanctuary Movement

The movement has its roots in medieval practices that prohibited the king’s men from apprehending criminals within church grounds. However, the present-day sanctuary movement takes advantage of the federal government’s policy that prohibits immigration officials from executing deportation orders in places of worship. Because of this policy, church leaders have begun allowing undocumented foreign nationals – at times, entire families – to remain inside church buildings in order to prevent the execution of deportation orders.

Reportedly, it is not just Christian places of worship that have offered undocumented foreign nationals sanctuary, but also synagogues, mosques, and non-denominational communities as well.

Since the beginning of summer, religious leaders have reported that more than 20 congregations have offered sanctuary to undocumented foreign nationals in cities across the U.S., including Phoenix, Chicago, Tucson, and Portland. An estimated 60 additional faith communities have pledged their support. The growth and momentum of the movement may be attributed to the fact that, although President Obama has promised that immigration officials will prioritize the deportation proceedings for undocumented foreign nationals with criminal records, as opposed to deporting immigrants who do not have criminal records, innocent immigrants are still being deported with the result that families are torn apart.

Church Leaders Respond to President Obama

According to the Reverend Noel Anderson, a coordinator working with the Church World Service, the sanctuary movement has been growing across the United States because church congregations and immigrant groups and communities recognize they have a “higher calling” than the human-made immigration laws. Reverend Anderson went on to state that declaring sanctuary is a very serious decision that is only reached after extensive discussion within the church congregation and community.

Church leaders have also expressed their disappointment that President Obama would continue to stall on enacting deportation relief because the populations that stand to benefit from relief include undocumented foreign nationals who have U.S. citizen children.

Sanctuary Seekers and Sanctuary Providers

Rosa Robles Loreta is an undocumented foreign national living in Tucson, Arizona. More specifically, she and her immediate family have been living in the Southside Presbyterian Church for the past month and a half. The Southside Presbyterian Church has extended sanctuary to several undocumented foreign nationals, and it first opened its doors to a man who was facing deportation earlier in the summer. After exerting pressure on federal immigration officials, the man was allowed to stay in the U.S. for another year.

The Rant

The Sanctuary Movement should send a clear message to the Obama Administration that the American people want real immigration reform, and they want it now. Hopefully the White House and Congress can soon put politics aside and return to the process of enacting real solutions to our immigration problems. Continue to check back with our blog for all of the latest immigration-related news.

Additional Blog Posts

What Employers Should Know About Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, ImmigRantings, November 28, 2012
New Jersey is the Newest State to Offer In-State Tuition to Undocumented Students, ImmigRantings, January 23, 2014