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Religion & Culture | Churches vow to offer sanctuary to undocumented immigrants

Published:Sunday | December 11, 2016 | 12:37 AM
Trump

BROCKTON, Mass. (AP) Hundreds of houses of worship are offering sanctuary to people who could face deportation if President-elect Donald Trump follows through on his campaign pledge to remove millions of immigrants living in the country illegally.

To some churches, sanctuary means spiritual support or legal assistance to fight deportation. Others promise or already are extending physical sanctuary by housing immigrants.

In Brockton, a poor city of about 95,000 people south of Boston, four churches have pledged to take in immigrants fearful of being deported.

"If you need a safe place, once you enter the doors of this building, you are safe," said the Reverend Abraham Waya, pastor of Central United Methodist Church, who said his church can shelter as many as 100 people. "We will host you and take care of you for as long as it takes."

During the campaign, Trump pledged to "immediately terminate" President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration, including the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which has extended work permits and temporary deportation relief to more than 700,000 immigrants brought here illegally as youths.

In an interview with Time magazine published this week, Trump adopted a more sympathetic tone toward young immigrants, saying, "We're going to work something out that's going to make people happy and proud."

A spokesman for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the agency follows a 2011 policy to generally avoid entering "sensitive locations" such as schools, places of worship and hospitals to take custody of undocumented immigrants. The policy says enforcement actions can be conducted in those locations in cases of terrorism or when there are "exigent circumstances."

About 450 houses of worship of various denominations nationwide have offered to provide some form of sanctuary, including living space, financial assistance or rides for schoolchildren, said Alison Harrington, pastor of Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson, Arizona.