Churches in the U.S. provide a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants from Central America.
Leaders of Sanctuary Movement, a church-centric organization, along with many other United States churches, have offered their facilities to provide undocumented immigrants from Central America a place to stay. These immigrants are earmarked for deportation by the Obama administration. It is believed that the U.S. government is all set to launch large numbers of undocumented migrants starting January.
The move by Department of Homeland Security to fast track the deportation of migrants from Central America has drawn condemnation from human rights groups and Democratic presidential candidates.
Members of the Sanctuary Movement, a multi-denominational group that has previous experience of sheltering a minimum of ten immigrants who were to be deported over past 18 months, took a stand in the condemnation. They alluded to the biblical Nativity tale concerning Mary and Joseph prior to Jesus' birth. Their point was made clear by Reverend Alison Harrington of Southside Presbyterian Church, who said as they are pastors, they understand that each family is like the Holy Family. Harrington continued on to say that doors of the Sanctuary Movement are “open to present day Josephs and Marys. Their Christmas day gift for them is the gift of the sanctuary.”
— Thomas Reese, S.J. (@ThomasReeseSJ) December 28, 2015
The Sanctuary Movement has approximately 50 congregations spread over a number of American cities. It came into public prominence in 2014 when the organization offered Honduran women refuge in Philadelphia. These women had two children and both of them were born in the United States. The woman ultimately won a two-year deportation reprieve.
If one goes by Reverend Noel Anderson of Church World Service, an affiliated organization, there are approximately 300 congregations which support the sanctuary. These are scattered over 20 states all over America. A large number of immigrants from Central American nations like Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala have entered U.S. via Mexico. A significant proportion of them were families and unaccompanied minors. They had escaped from extreme poverty, drug violence and gangs in their respective home countries.
An anti-human tracking law enacted in 2008 prohibits undocumented children originating from Central America from being pushed back. These laws are however not applicable to Canadian or Mexico citizens. Government sources have revealed that the new U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency is an expansion from just targeting individuals to families which have undocumented members. In many cases, such members have already given the orders to leave the U.S.