Hundreds of Churches to Provide Sanctuary for Undocumented Immigrants

President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team and Homeland Security officials recently discussed plans to reverse Barack Obama’s immigration policies.

During his campaign, President-elect Donald Trump vowed to deport millions of undocumented immigrants from the United States. The Sanctuary Movement, an interfaith movement that began in the 1960s, is undergoing resurgence following the presidential election.

Approximately 450 houses of worship in the U.S. have offered to provide sanctuary or other assistance to undocumented immigrants, according to the New York Times.

While not every church has the space and resources necessary to physically shelter immigrants, all of the organizations have pledged to provide “money, legal aid, food, child care or transportation.”

The following is the pledge for congregations providing sanctuary:

“As people of faith and people of conscience, we pledge to resist the newly elected administration’s policy proposals to target and deport millions of undocumented immigrants and discriminate against marginalized communities.

“We will open up our congregations and communities as sanctuary spaces for those targeted by hate, and work alongside our friends, families, and neighbors to ensure the dignity and human rights of all people.”

During the Vietnam War, American churches offered sanctuary to soldiers who refused to serve. Congregations also accommodated Central Americans fleeing wars in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras in the 1980s.

Rev. Alexia Salvatierra, a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, said in an interview that thousands of Latino churches and their clergies are also involved in protecting immigrants, as in the 1980s, mostly white, Protestant churches led the cause.

Director of Policy Studies at the Center for Immigration Studies Jessica Vaughan told the New York Times she understands the sympathy churches have for undocumented immigrants, “But I find myself wishing that they had as much sympathy for other parishioners they have who are adversely affected by illegal immigration” because of jobs, higher taxes or crime. The Center for Immigration Studies supports tighter controls on immigration.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) consider places of worships “sensitive locations.” This means, under most circumstances, they will avoid arresting people there.

According to the following ICE and CBP statement:

“The policies provide that enforcement actions at or focused on sensitive locations such as schools, places of worship, and hospitals should generally be avoided, and that such actions may only take place when (a) prior approval is obtained from an appropriate supervisory official, or (b) there are exigent circumstances necessitating immediate action without supervisor approval.”

Fact Check

In an interview with “60 Minutes,” his first after winning the election, Trump said he will swiftly deport two to three million unauthorized immigrants who he said have been convicted of crimes.

PolitiFact found that Trump was being misleading in the amount of criminal immigrants illegally in the country. He was referring to a Department of Homeland Security report covering fiscal years 2011-13:

“That report said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement estimated there were 1.9 million ‘removable criminal aliens’ in the United States at the time — not 3 million.

And the report says the 1.9 million total includes immigrants who are here both legally and illegally.”

Reversing Obama’s Policies, Cost of Border Barriers 

According to an internal agency memo reviewed by Reuters, Trump’s transition team and Department of Homeland Security officials discussed plans to secure U.S. borders and reverse policies put in place by the Obama administration during a December 5 meeting.

Trump has said he intends to undo Obama’s 2012 executive order, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which allows children brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents to remain in the country on temporary authorizations that allow them to attend college and work.

An internal agency memo obtained by Reuters reveals Trump’s team made wide-ranging requests for documents and analysis, which included data on recipients of the DACA.

Trump’s team also asked the Department of Homeland Security to assess all assets available for border wall and barrier construction, in the north and south:

“In response to the transition team request, U.S. Customs and Border Protection staffers identified more than 400 miles along the U.S.-Mexico border, and about the same distance along the U.S.-Canada border, where new fencing could be erected.”

The Department of Homeland Security official said agency representatives who attended the meeting created a report, which included the costs of building a fence along the U.S.-Canada border and on the southwest border.

The northern border fence would be $3.3 billion and cover 452 miles along the border of Canada and the states of Washington, Idaho, Montana, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. It would cost an estimated $11.37 billion to add 413 miles of fencing on the southwest border. The price is more expensive because the fencing would be aimed at keeping pedestrians as well as vehicles from crossing.

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