As sweeping arrests are made of undocumented immigrants across the country, churches are stepping up to offer sanctuary to those at risk. Two churches in Buffalo, NY, made a declaration on Friday that they would offer safe haven to any undocumented immigrants fearing arrest. Pilgrim-St. Luke’s United Church of Christ and Trinity Episcopal Church made the statement at a gathering of faith leaders on Friday. “Those foreigners among us, as the prophet Ezekiel said, are to be regarded as citizens,” said Rev Matt Lincoln of Trinity Church. Nearly 36 immigrants have been arrested in the Buffalo area in the past week alone.
Sanctuary church status has no legal standing, according to Matthew L. Kolken, a Buffalo immigration lawyer. However, he says that U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement agents are under order to avoid making arrests at places like churches and schools for public relations reasons. Declaring a church as a Sanctuary may not provide legal protection, but it does offer some safeguard for immigrants who are concerned for their safety.
While publicity has risen over deportations under the Trump administration, they are not new. Obama deported record numbers of undocumented people during his time in office.