More immigrants seek church sanctuary

Church organAround ten undocumented immigrants are being sheltered in churches across the United States while the executive action announced by President Obama is being implemented. One of these immigrants is 28-year-old Angela Navarro, an immigrant from Honduras who now lives in Philadelphia in Pennsylvania.

On November 18th Navarro went to Philadelphia’s West Kensington Ministry to seek sanctuary, having been in defiance of a deportation order for more than ten years. She is now living inside the church with her family. Agents from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau are not allowed to arrest people in places as sensitive as schools and churches without special approval following a memo issued back in 2011.

The perceived delay in immigration reform led to what has is known as the New Sanctuary movement. Although President Obama has now used his executive powers to give almost five million undocumented immigrants work papers and a three-year deportation deferment, these reforms are nonetheless temporary and leave many families with unprotected members.

The New Sanctuary movement is a rebirth of the Sanctuary Movement of the 1980s, a campaign that encouraged churches to offer sanctuary to undocumented immigrants faced with deportation. There are now 12 cities in the United States that operate such congregations. “Keeping immigrant families together is a moral issue,” says the United Church of Christ and Unitarian Universalist Association president Peter Morales.