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Sanctuary congregations have doubled since Trump election, say faith leaders

Palestinian American Manal Kawas, whose husband was deported from the United States, shouts while marching to Trump Tower during a protest organized by the New York Immigration Coalition against President-elect Donald Trump in the Manhattan borough of New York, on Dec. 18, 2016. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Darren Ornitz

(RNS) More than 800 congregations have declared themselves sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants, about double the total on Election Day.

Leaders of the sanctuary movement say the pace of churches and other houses of worship declaring themselves sanctuaries has quickened in the days leading up to the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump on Friday (Jan. 20).

Trump has threatened to build a wall to keep Mexicans out of the U.S. and to deport record numbers of immigrants. The PICO National Network and other faith groups say that congregations need to take a “bold and prophetic” stand to protect those already vulnerable to deportation under the Obama administration, but who have yet more to fear from Trump.

The sanctuary movement is responding to “higher international laws, and of course our divine laws and sacred texts that call on us to resist these proposals of the next administration, that is rooted unfortunately in racism and anti-immigrant fervor,” the Rev. Noel Andersen, national grass-roots organizer for Church World Service, said during a conference call Tuesday.

Bishop Dwayne Royster, political director of the PICO National Network and moderator of the call, said the sanctuary movement is expanding to include “any community that’s threatened by the discriminatory policies of the Trump administration.” He pointed to Trump’s call for a registry of Muslims, and spikes in hate crimes against them and other minorities during the campaign and since the election.

Imam Omar Suleiman, a professor of Islamic studies at Southern Methodist University, who also participated in the call, said he will soon sign an open letter from a group of imams calling on mosques across the country to open their doors as sanctuaries to all who need it.

“Our faith teaches us that all people are worthy of humanity, regardless of their documentation status,” he said.

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About the author

Lauren Markoe

Lauren Markoe has been a national reporter for RNS since 2011. Previously she covered government and politics as a daily reporter at the Charlotte Observer and The State (Columbia, S.C.)

48 Comments

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  • Just to head off the tide of nativist cretins, lets just get a few things out of the way:

    1. Only the Federal government and those deputized by the Federal government to deal with immigration law situations have any duty to enforce immigration laws. There is no duty of anyone else to report the immigration status of others. These sanctuary congregations are not breaking any laws.

    2. Immigration law is far different from criminal law. Any analogy between an illegal alien and a criminal is a sign that the speaker isn’t familiar with the laws in question and is grasping at straws. Criminal law has a far different level of burdens of proof, due process and expectation of proportionality in penalties.

    3. Don’t bother talking about rule of law unless you can demonstrate you are aware of what the laws really are. Otherwise you are just engaging in “Judge Dredd” style sophistry. “The Law is the Law” is not a legitimate argument in a democracy. Where laws are based on public mandate and knowledge. Where we are expected to protest unjust laws.

    4. A good amount of the illegal alien population (25-30%) did not cross the border illegally. But are such status due to severe deficiencies with our system such as exploitative work visas.

    5. Illegal aliens are a net positive for taxes/public assistance. They pay more into the system in the form of sales taxes on goods purchased, and property taxes as part of the rents paid than they receive. They are not eligible for anything short of the most basic care given to avoid a public health hazard. Natural born US citizen children of such aliens are eligible for benefits, like every other citizen of our nation. Even permanent resident aliens and many other legal immigrants are barred from public assistance. The claims to the contrary are a pernicious fiction.

    6. NumbersUSA and Center for Immigration Studies are fronts for white supremacists. They are not legitimate sources on the subject. http://www.rightwingwatch.org/organizations/numbers-usa/

    7. My solution to the problem is simple. Make illegal entry/overstay punishable by a stiff fine. This way its not an amnesty. It is a proportional punishment to the offense. You pay, you stay. If you can’t, adios. People buy their way into our immigration system on a regular basis.

  • Except pretty much everyone knows those laws and they are pretty good ones. Those Christian bigots violated laws which were reasonable, rational and fairly implemented. Analogy fail for you.

    To quote Arch Gremlin Spike, “Gizmo, caca. Phtooey!”. Couldn’t help myself.

  • My ilk is freedom loving American. I guess you don’t count yourself as one of those.

    I protest the laws I know are bad and work towards their repeal. It is the function of the judiciary to do such things. Our laws require a rational and secular basis if it affects rights of others. I have yet to see why various civil rights laws should be repealed. They seem to do exactly as promised. I defended those laws and I know what they are and what they stand for. Same is never true for the nativist crowd.

    So when did you know you were a pedophile? Because that came out of left field there. It must be important to you. Everyone who is not a sociopath already knows why such laws exist and their rational basis.

    Clearly you are more interested in terrible analogy and making excuses for malicious discriminatory behavior then addressing the topic. Maybe this isn’t the best topic for you.

  • “NumbersUSA and Center for Immigration Studies are fronts for white supremacists. They are not legitimate sources on the subject.”

    LOL! Rightwingwatch is not a legitimate source on any subject.

  • There’s the law higher than “international law”: “Thou shalt not steal.”

    Illegal immigrants steal their turns from those who get in line, waiting at the legal immigration. Illegal immigration is unfair to those who follow our laws. Illegal immigrants are lawbreakers. Illegal immigration is like breaking into somebody’s house through the back door, then expects to be treated better than the homeowners themselves.

    Illegal immigration is a sin. Why is the Catholic Church encouraging this sin? Aren’t our Bishops scared for their own salvation?

    “Thou shalt not steal.”

  • I agree with your #7 solution, but illegal immigrants should be made to pay not just in terms of money but also in terms of time.

    There are thousands of would-be legal immigrants who have been waiting for decades for permission to come in. In fairness, they should be processed first, ahead of the illegals.

    The illegals must go home to their own countries first and file their petitions to immigrate at the US Embassies there (like law abiders do). Then they should stand at the end of the line and wait.

  • I think your first point is a false analogy, partly because of the ongoing argument about where federal law trumps (sorry) state law vs where state sovereignty frees it from federal suzerainity. However, any sensible person recognizes that when laws are being broken, whether civil or criminal, they are obligated to report them and cooperate with the authorities in investigating the matter. We can’t merely pick and choose based on our preferences which laws to obey or not. If we disdain a particular law we have the option to have those laws changed, not by executive fiat, nor judicial legerdemain, but by legislation. I acknowledge that your point #7 has merit, and is at least worthy of testing. I would further argue that there is certainly some question, which I am not aware that has been definitively decided by the Supreme Court, of whether or not the children of undocumented aliens who are born within our borders, are in fact, natural born citizens.

  • The one issue that you didn’t speak to is the difference between an illegal migrant and a refugee or asylum seeker.

  • 8 U.S. Code § 1325 – Improper entry by alien

    (a) Improper time or place; avoidance of examination or inspection; misrepresentation and concealment of facts
    Any alien who (1) enters or attempts to enter the United States at any time or place other than as designated by immigration officers, or (2) eludes examination or inspection by immigration officers, or (3) attempts to enter or obtains entry to the United States by a willfully false or misleading representation or the willful concealment of a material fact, shall, for the first commission of any such offense, be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than 6 months, or both, and, for a subsequent commission of any such offense, be fined under title 18, or imprisoned not more than 2 years, or both.
    (b) Improper time or place; civil penaltiesAny alien who is apprehended while entering (or attempting to enter) the United States at a time or place other than as designated by immigration officers shall be subject to a civil penalty of—
    (1) at least $50 and not more than $250 for each such entry (or attempted entry); or
    (2) twice the amount specified in paragraph (1) in the case of an alien who has been previously subject to a civil penalty under this subsection.
    Civil penalties under this subsection are in addition to, and not in lieu of, any criminal or other civil penalties that may be imposed.

  • Pope Francis’ US bishops have thrown immigrants under the bus. No Catholic organization has offered sanctuary that I know of. The president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops said in congratulating Trump on his election that immigrants “can be humanely welcomed without sacrificing our security.” At their meeting in November, the bishops adopted by acclamation the statement that “We will work to promote humane policies [that] honor and respect the laws of this nation. That’s because the pope said that, as regards immigrants,“one cannot open the gates wide unreasonably” and “Migrants should be treated according to certain rules, because migration is a right, but one which is highly regulated.”

  • See my points 2 and 3 below, analogies to criminal laws are a sign of ignorance of the system. Illegal aliens do not affect those already in the system legally. There is no “line” being jumped.

  • These people are already here making themselves productive to the country.

    There is no line. There is no regard for fairness in wait times for visas in the system. A person can buy their way to citizenship in less time than the sibling or parent of a US citizen. Marriage based visas have no limit or wait times beyond administrative processing. Refugees and Asylum seekers have no limits on residency visas either.

    You do not know how our immigration laws and system work. But you are vociferous about it’s enforcement. That is pretty lazy thinking in a democratic nation.

  • The first point is actually part of the immigration law. The federal government doesn’t want State or local actors enforcing immigration law without their permission. The case with the Arizona anti immigrant law hammered that home.

    As for children born here, that is from the citizenship clause of the 14th Amendment. They are citizens. It was challenged late in the 19th century in US v. Wong Kim Ark(1898) The ruling was incorporated into the Immigration and naturalization Act in effect now.

  • Typical. Anything but preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    Since when was it the Church’s role to enable illegals to break American laws? Why do they get in ahead of those who go through the legal process?

  • They are here illegally. There is a process to get in. Use it. To enable those who can’t be bothered to come and lower wages of the most vulnerable Americans is hardly righteous behavior.

  • Immigration laws are reasonable and rational. They should not be harbored, but rounded up and sent back where they came from. They depress wages of the most vulnerable Americans, but funny, that bothers not of you.

  • One could argue that illegal children born in the U.S. are not “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” because of their illegal status.

  • Since these sanctuary congregations are all in for illegal immigrants, why don’t they make a real statement by signing over all their Social Security benefits to them? This might be a tremendous sacrifice, but it would show their Christian dedication to making this country the refuge for the world’s poor and downtrodden, Whoever can find a way to get here, can escape the poverty and violence in their country, by coming here through our open borders and find permanent sanctuary in a place that welcomes and graciously provides for them!

  • Except that section of the citizenship clause applies to children of diplomats. People who are outside of the jurisdiction of our laws due to diplomatic immunity. People also likely to claim citizenship of their children for the country they represent.

    Plus an illegal alien is still subject to jurisdiction of US laws. Its been argued before but it turns on a deliberate misuse of the word subject as a noun when it is clearly intended as a verb.

    More importantly, undermining citizenship by birth is an inherently boneheaded idea. It would allow the US government to strip the rights of anyone born in this country who would naturally be considered its citizen. To be able to declare anyone a non-person. It is the one part of our immigration system which has consistently been successful.

  • Really? My guess is you have never read them, seen their application, and fail to understand the byzantine nature of their drafting. The laws are a mishmash of cross purposes. Nativist limitations and alleged protections for citizens mixed with humanitarian concerns, the ability to recruit necessary foreign labor and encourage foreign investment in the US. Our work visa system is entirely exploitative and problematic. Family visa programs suffer from a lack of sufficient administrative support and arbitrary general limits based on country of origin. Your assertions smack of ignorance and a desire to dismiss and ignore clear problems that exist.

    As for rounding up illegal aliens, it is an interesting sentiment, but highly unlikely in a country like the US. The two governments who were most effective in deporting millions of people at a clip were Nazi Germany and the USSR.

    The methods used for rousting illegal aliens have limits because there reaches a point where such methods start to infringe on the rights and privileges of citizens and legal residents to an obnoxious degree. There is only so much people put up with before it starts undermining civil liberties.

    Of course one way to keep illegal aliens from depressing wages is to make it easier for them to escape the underground economy. Where they would not be forced to work for a pittance out of fear of deportment. Hence my suggestion #7 from my big prior post.

  • The Federal statute refers to the illegal entry of an alien as a crime, including punishable with a jail sentence. The burden of proof is upon you to prove otherwise, since you claim any analogy between a criminal and an illegal alien is false.

  • Actually for many there isn’t. Yet there is a demand for their labor here, legal or not. To enable people who are clearly performing tasks that the majority of Americans avoid (like agricultural work) serves a national benefit.

    Of course to keep them from lowering wages, the best thing is to get people documented and out of the underground economy as my suggestion #7 was for. Hence the fine as punishment as opposed to the disproportionate and draconian punishment of deportation.

    Righteousness is not a criteria I take seriously for political issues. 🙂

  • Which makes the law much different from a criminal statute. In a criminal statute, the state has the burden of proof to show the violation of the law was made. The due process rights are different, the burdens are different.

    Hence analogies to criminal law are not appropriate.

    Also a criminal has a right to an attorney which an immigration law violator doesn’t. Plus you have to be of some age of cognition to be able to be charged with some crimes to be able to understand and appreciate your acts. An immigration violator can be charged pretty much after birth. There is also no expectation of proportionality in punishment in immigration law violation. (No 8th Amendment protection). In addition, unlike criminal violations, an immigration violation can be waived upon a showing of hardship to a citizen.

  • A refugee or asylum seeker is a “legal immigrant”. Someone who has presented themselves to CIS seeking entry and residence in the US based largely on well founded fears of immediate harm should they be returned to their country. A refugee is subject to some of the most intensive vetting in our immigration system because the status confers permanent residency upon being granted. It is not given out lightly.

  • You just admitted an illegal alien can be charged with a crime. Hence they are criminals, whether or not they are charged under Federal or criminal law.

  • You are not getting it. Plus I said nothing to that effect anyway.

    An immigration violation is not a crime. A crime is a crime.

    Immigration law is not criminal law. It is considered administrative law controlled by the executive branch of government. Criminal law is governed by criminal statutes and controlled by the judicial branch of government.

    They are two are separate systems. Separate burdens, separate civil liberties issues, separate due process issues.

  • Only raised it because I heard Trump criticize Angela Merkel for letting in all the ‘illegals’. I have a feeling that most people think that illegal immigrants are immigrants trying to jump the immigration line. And fail to recognize that refugees are also addressed in international law – 1951 UN convention and 1967 Protocol relating to the status of Refugees. The EU issued their own directive in 2004 with respect to qualifications and status of persons needing protection and the content as to the protection provided.

  • Very good point.

    Germany also has decades of “guestworker” laws which are the equivalent of essentially opening the borders to migrant workers. Not an equivalent to illegal aliens in the US in any sense. Especially since they don’t have citizenship by birth either. So the children born in the country to immigrants are not considered citizens.

    I would strongly discourage the use of the term “immigration line” since no such situation really exists.

  • “Subject” as used in this clause is neither verb nor noun but adjective. And the Wong Kim Ark case is not relevant because it dealt with permanent LEGAL residents.

    And as for what was “clearly intended” by the Citizenship Clause, Sen. Jacob Merritt Howard of Michigan, the clause’s author, stated: “This will not, of course, include persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, who belong to the families of ambassadors, or foreign ministers.”

  • If “Thou shalt not steal” were to be taken literally across the board and not just in the selective way you apply it, then the President-elect and his cabinet all belong behind bars.

  • Right Wing Watch is notorious for its really nasty habit of archiving the inflammatory and bigoted statements various pundits make in public and presenting them in their entirety for people to see and throw back at them.

    So unfair to the pundits, using their words verbatim, with links to original stories, videos and press statements in order to embarrass them and demonstrate their dishonesty. /sarcasm

  • The purpose of legitimate news sources is to report news as it happens, from which readers may draw their own conclusions. RRW’s purpose, however, is to report news which supports conclusions pre-selected for their readers.

    In a word, bias. Nothing wrong with reading such sites if they’re to your taste but they certainly can’t be taken seriously as “citations.”

  • When it comes to documenting extremism, that’s a large part of RWW’s mission. In that they only report facts. Extremism has an interest in hiding the truth about how radical they are. RRW only reports what the far right has done. I understand facts are difficult things for those mired in a fantasy world where their evil agendas are viewed as good.

  • The pre-selected conclusion from which RWW operates, as I already said, is the labeling of people and ideas as “extremism” and from there selecting news items to support that conclusion.

    This is what disqualifies them as a legitimate “news source.”

  • Nonsense. Extremism is a matter of opinion. One person’s extremist is the next person’s moderate. Legitimate news sources do not deal in such — except on the opinion page, of course.

    Even RRW does not call itself a “news” source. It calls itself a “project” of the People for the American Way, which in turn calls itself an advocacy group. Weren’t you taught in school how to use sources?

  • Yet what they report are facts. They do not for example call Tony Perkins a hatemonger; they merely report his words and actions which prove he is a hatemonger.

  • Didja see today’s headline? “Stop Calling Trump Pro-Life.” Pure opinion and spin. If this is what libs call “legitimate news” then no wonder everyone is pointing and laughing.

  • No, that’s just accurate labeling. No member of the right-wing is “Pro-Life” at all. It is merely rhetoric for controlling women. No one is pointing and laughing except at your ilk and your poor excuse for a president.

  • “Accurate labeling” to a lib is spin to everyone else. This is why the major news outlets have permanently lost their credibility, even with most of you. If you don’t see anyone pointing and laughing it’s because you’re still existing within the same little bubble in which Hillary Clinton had a 99% chance of winning the election. The rest of the country is enjoying the show immensely.

    “Legitimate news source,” my foot.

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