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Berkeley, CA Church Gives Sanctuary To Immigrants Who Are About To Be Deported

CREDIT: SHUTTERSTOCK
CREDIT: SHUTTERSTOCK

Anti-immigrant sentiment is on the rise across the United States. Presidential candidates are advocating for mass deportation and building a border wall. Advocates and Latino immigrants are under physical attack by people who don’t want them in the country. Parents of U.S. citizens killed in incidents with undocumented immigrants have taken to the Republican National Convention to lash out against the perceived threat by the unauthorized population.

But in one California-based church, leaders are actively pushing back against the xenophobic climate, hoping instead to get the U.S. federal government to adopt a more humane immigration policy toward immigrants. Last week, faith leaders at the Universal Lutheran Chapel in Berkeley announced that the church had created an apartment to provide sanctuary for local residents who may be deported soon. The apartment, a converted office, is on church premises.

“We await the call from someone in the final steps of deportation and who needs relief,” Pastor Jeff Johnson said, according to the independent news site Berkeley Side.

“We live in perilous times — when national leaders advocate openly about building walls and barring whole populations from entry into the U.S.,” Johnson added in a separate statement. “It is a time of increased xenophobia, where refugees are derided, scapegoated, and blamed. For communities of faith, action in the present moment is imperative.”

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Universal Lutheran Chapel’s move to house immigrants comes nearly a month after the Berkeley City Council adopted a resolution to provide sanctuary to refugees and migrants and to support organizations that are providing assistance to these individuals.

Berkeley is a well-known sanctuary city where local law enforcement authorities are not required to arrest or detain immigrants for potential deportation proceedings on behalf of the Department of Homeland Security.

“Berkeley is saying: ‘enough is enough,’” City Councilmember Kriss Worthington, who drafted the resolution, said, condemning the “unprecedented level” of immigration raids across the country.

Since the beginning of the year, the Obama administration has authorized a series of immigration raids targeting recent arrivals from Central America and people with criminal records. In some cases, those immigrants have years-old minor criminal convictions for which they have already served out prison sentences, and have since started families and put down roots in their communities.

In growing numbers across the United States, churches and other places of worship have offered or provided sanctuary to immigrants with final orders of deportation. They hope to hold federal agents accountable to an internal memo not to enforce actions against immigrants in “sensitive locations” like churches, schools, hospitals, and public religious ceremonies.  In recent months, faith groups in Pennsylvania set up an emergency hotline to help undocumented immigrants during immigration raids. And an Illinois church took in a father who was charged with an “aggravated” DUI in 2009 and have since paid his fees and took the required classes.

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Faith Groups Create Emergency Hotline For Immigrants To Call During A Deportation RaidNineteen faith groups in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania are setting up an emergency hotline to help undocumented immigrants…thinkprogress.org