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.