On Thursday, the Washington Post reported that Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) were preparing raids in efforts to ramp up deportations of immigrant families who fled violence in Central America in the past year. According to the Post, the raids would target families already ordered to be removed by an immigration judge.
According to #Not1More, a coalition of organizations dedicated to confronting immigration laws, and the Migration Policy Institute, the Obama administration has already increased detention of immigration families by 173 percent in recent months.
In response, faith leaders affiliated with the multi-denominational New Sanctuary Movement have announced they are opening up the doors of their churches to provide refuge for families who need it.
Church leaders drew parallels to the story of Jesus in their statements, noting the irony of deporting families on Christmas Day who have fled political violence.
“As pastors we know that each and every family is a holy family and the individuals and families who have fled violence don’t just need our prayers, they need sanctuary,” said Rev. Alison Harrington of Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson, Arizona. “We open our doors to today’s Josephs and Marys despite ICE’s plans to deport them.”
This is just the latest effort by member churches of the New Sanctuary Movement to protect immigrant families. In January, an undocumented immigrant was granted a reprieve from deportation after hiding in a church for 58 days. ICE has an unofficial policy to not raid places of worship save for situations where national security is threatened. And as previously reported by ThinkProgress, over a dozen places of worship have committed themselves to providing sanctuary for immigrants.
The plan by the Obama administration to increase deportations of immigrants has also drawn criticism from fellow Democrats, especially those vying for the party’s presidential nomination. A spokesperson for Hillary Clinton noted the candidate has “real concerns” regarding a deportation ramp-up, while her rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), said he was “very disturbed” by the reports. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley called the plan “completely at odds with our character as a nation.”