Churches offer Central American immigrants sanctuary

Church-based Sanctuary Movement leaders have declared that they will open the doors to their places of worship as sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants who face deportation as a part of a crackdown by the Obama administration on immigrant families from Central America that came to the US illegally.

The statement was made on Friday, two days after a report in the Washington Post that the US government has planned a number of raids to deport hundreds of undocumented immigrant families, possibly as early as next month, in what is the first large-scale attempt to target the recent influx of illegal border crossers. The preparation by the Department of Homeland Security to intensify the deportation of undocumented immigrants from Central America, which has been confirmed by sources from within the US government, has been slammed by human rights groups, immigration advocates and Democratic presidential candidate nominees.

Leaders of the Sanctuary Movement, which comprises multiple denominations, have also criticized the plan. The Sanctuary Movement has already offered sanctuary to at least ten undocumented immigrants to prevent them being deported in the course of the last 18 months. “As pastors we know that each and every family is a holy family,” says the pastor of the Tuscan, Arizona’s Southside Presbyterian Church, Reverend Alison Harrington. “We open our doors to today’s Josephs and Marys. … The gift we have to offer on Christmas Day is the gift of sanctuary.”

According to the affiliated Church World Service coordinator Reverend Noel Anderson, there are around 300 congregations that support the sanctuary network in over 20 states across the country.