Religious leaders recently launched the New Sanctuary Movement to support undocumented immigrant families and advocate for immigration reform. But most immigrants aren’t seeking safety in a congregation’s sanctuary. Rather they look for financial, legal and spiritual support as they face deportation.
“We are responding to a broken system that is increasingly creating broken families and broken lives,” said Alexia Salvatierra, one of the movement’s founders. The ELCA pastor is executive director of Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice, Los Angeles.
Sanctuary leaders claim that more than 222,000 immigrants have been subjected to deportation since Immigration and Customs Enforcement increased its efforts last year. Nearly one in 10 families in the U.S. is of mixed-immigration status, they report, and more than 3 million children who are U.S. citizens have at least one parent who is undocumented. According to government data, there are 12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S.
ELCA congregations from Brooklyn, N.Y., to Los Angeles are among those in more than 50 cities participating in the movement.
Some congregations do plan to provide shelter to people with deportation orders. Virginia Kice of ICE declined to say in an Associated Press interview whether agents would arrest people who take sanctuary in churches.
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