New sanctuary movement

Sold on sanctuary: Most journalists giving decent coverage to grassroots movement

Sold on sanctuary: Most journalists giving decent coverage to grassroots movement

The drama surrounding President Donald Trump’s immigration policies hasn’t died down as thousands –- or millions -- of illegal immigrants figure out what to do next.

Like a phoenix out of ashes, the once obscure sanctuary movement has sprung back to life in churches and networks of religious activists.

Several publications have been visiting churches that have decided to host illegal immigrants in their basements, much like some were doing in the 1980s to asylum seekers from the killing fields of Guatemala or El Salvador. I first reported on the uptick in coverage in November.

The movement briefly stirred back to life in 2007 near the end of the George W. Bush years and I wrote about it in a four-part series for the Washington Times. A lot of the energy in the current movement seems centered on the West Coast. What I wrote about the movement in Seattle sounds eerily the same now that the Seattle Times is covering it 10 years later. As I read their recent piece, some of the same folks I interviewed a decade ago are still involved:

With President Donald Trump’s new policies prioritizing millions for deportation, people who entered the country illegally are feeling an urgent need to get their affairs in order. And their advocates want to help.
El Centro de la Raza (in Seattle’s Beacon Hill district), catering primarily to Latinos with services such as preschool and a food bank, is holding daily walk-in sessions like this one through March 4 to help people draw up emergency plans.
Houses of worship are also preparing to step in, readying their buildings as safe havens. In Los Angeles, religious leaders are going so far as to form an underground network of private homes to try to hide families. ...
The Church Council of Greater Seattle has been reaching out to its 320 member congregations, as well as to local synagogues and mosques, to explore ways to support immigrants and refugees. That could include providing “long-term hospitality,” said Executive Director Michael Ramos.
While those conversations are just beginning, he said, “The energy is high.”

One of the religious groups involved in the Seattle effort is the Episcopal Church, including St. Mark’s Cathedral, pictured with this article.

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Celebrate good times, come on! Enjoy these three great reads from the Godbeat

Celebrate good times, come on! Enjoy these three great reads from the Godbeat

Like most everybody in the blogging world, we're focused on producing engaging content that people will read, share and, just maybe, comment on.

That means that we often gravitate toward the hottest, most timely topics — the kind trending on social media — when deciding which stories to review.

Moreover, negative posts pointing out journalistic problems and bias in mainstream media coverage of religion news tend to generate much more interest and buzz.

Please allow me to summarize the response to most of our positive posts about stories that do everything right: zzzzzzzzz. In case you need a video illustration of that response, here goes.

But since — amazingly — you actually clicked on a post promising "great reads," I'm going to reward you with three nice stories by Godbeat pros. All published within the last week, these are the kind of excellent pieces that sometimes get lost in our GetReligion guilt files.

What's the common thread that binds all three of these stories together? For one, all of the writers are religion beat pros who've received frequent praise from GetReligion: Jaweed Kaleem of the Los Angeles Times, Peter Smith of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and our former GetReligion colleague Sarah Pulliam Bailey of the Washington Post.

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Offering sanctuary: The church/immigration story that’s not going away

Offering sanctuary: The church/immigration story that’s not going away

Back in 2007, the Bush administration wasn’t budging on immigration, so a number of churches began offering “sanctuary” to illegal immigrants whereby the immigrant’s family literally lives on church property where the police won’t touch them. It was similar to a much larger sanctuary movement in the early 1980s when Central American refugees camped out in churches across the country.

I was convinced this new sanctuary movement was going places, so talked the Washington Times (my employer at the time) into sending me and a photographer to interview immigration officials, pastors, activists and the illegal immigrants camped out in church basements in Chicago, Kansas City, Los Angeles and the Seattle area. The result was a four-part series that you can read about here, here, here and here. (It was quite a switch from the kind of coveragethe Times usually runs on immigration). One of my photos from a pro-sanctuary demonstration in Kansas City runs atop this story.

 So when I saw a recent story in Religion News Service about a press conference about the incoming Trump administration creating the need for sanctuary churches, I took notice.

Sanctuary is a complex topic and the villains aren’t always who you think they are. The story began:

PHILADELPHIA (RNS) -- First came the mayors of New York, Chicago and Seattle declaring their cities “sanctuaries” and saying they will protect undocumented immigrants from President-elect Donald Trump’s plan to deport them.
Then thousands of students, professors, alumni and others at elite universities including Harvard, Yale and Brown signed petitions asking their schools to protect undocumented students from any executive order.
Now, religious congregations, including churches and synagogues, are declaring themselves “sanctuaries” for immigrants fleeing deportation.

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