The International Herald Tribune reports churches in five big US cities plan to protect illegal immigrants from deportation, offering sanctuary if need be, as they pressure lawmakers to create a path to citizenship for the nation's estimated 12 million illegal immigrants.
Beginning yesterday, a Catholic church in Los Angeles and a Lutheran church in North Hollywood each intend to shelter one person, and churches in other cities plan to do so in coming months as part of the "New Sanctuary Movement."
"We want to put a human face to very complex immigration laws and awaken the consciousness of the human spirit," said Father Richard Estrada of Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Church in Los Angeles, where one illegal immigrant will live.
Organisers do not believe immigration agents will make arrests inside the churches.
Anti-illegal-immigration groups called the sanctuary effort misguided.
The faith groups "don't seem to realize that they are being charitable with someone else's resources, and that's not charity," said Ira Mehlman of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which favors limits on immigration.
In New York, religious leaders gathered at the Roman Catholic Church of St Paul the Apostle and said their promise of sanctuary could include financial assistance, legal help and physical protection, if necessary.
"For us, sanctuary is an act of radical hospitality, the welcoming of the stranger who is like ourselves, the stranger in our midst, our neighbors, our friends," said Rabbi Michael Feinberg of the Greater New York Labor-Religion Coalition.
Two families facing deportation stood with the religious leaders. Jani, a U.S. citizen who did not give her last name, said her Haitian-born husband Jean is facing deportation because of a 1989 drug conviction in the US that put him in prison for 11 years.
She said the family would take refuge in a church, if necessary, rather than be separated.
Churches to begin providing sanctuary to illegal immigrants in Los Angeles, other U.S. cities (International Herald Tribune, 9/5/07)
LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Nuestra Reina de los Angeles (Wikipedia)
10 May 2007