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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Three congregations work to stop deportations

New York City

New York City has been a haven for immigrants for centuries, a fact manifest in the Metropolitan New York Synod: Twenty-three languages are spoken on any given Sunday among its 217 congregations in the five boroughs, Long Island and seven counties to the north. “Even some of those congregations founded 200 years ago still have the mother tongue for worship because we continue to have people crossing borders or planes arriving,” said Gary E. Mills, executive assistant to the bishop.

But the area that has received millions upon millions of the “tired and poor” from around the world has in recent times been both derided and praised as a city of sanctuary.

Last November, Americans watched as the idea was debated between Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani. Romney opposed what he called Giuliani’s welcome of undocumented immigrants when he was mayor.

 When Joe Chen (right) goes to court
When Joe Chen (right) goes to court fordeportation hearings, he often isaccompanied by David H. Rommereim, pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Giuliani had inherited an executive order that shielded undocumented people—estimated at 500,000 by the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs—from being asked their immigration status by public officials. (New York doesn’t classify itself as a “sanctuary city” because undocumented immigrants who commit a crime are supposed to be reported.)

But since last May, New York has been called a sanctuary city in another sense: It’s home to some of the first churches in the national New Sanctuary Movement to help immigrants facing expulsion from the U.S. ELCA pastors David H. Rommereim of Good Shepherd, Samuel Cruz of Trinity and Giovanny Sanchez of Del Espiritu Santo are leading these Brooklyn congregations in accompanying China native Joe Chen through his deportation hearings.


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December issue

DECEMBER issue:

Advent: Waiting together

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