Buffalo churches declare themselves Sanctuary Churches for undocumented immigrants

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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.

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Kenneth Knapp
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Kenneth Knapp

Let us pray that President Trump succeeds neither in deporting record numbers of undocumented people as President Obama did, nor in the internment of innocent people because of their ethnicity as President Roosevelt did. I'm not clear on what a plaque to slave labor might have to do with Donald Trump.

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Paul Woodrum
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The juxtaposition of the articles on Sanctuary Churches, Internment of Japanese Americans and a plaque to slave labor are a trinity of the consequences of the sort of racist fear President Trump is whipping up. Maybe he does know some history. He's certainly trying to repeat it.

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John Coutsoubos
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John Coutsoubos

i like that idea of an "underground railroad" with "stations" along the route ! the "stations" could be private homes, churches, and etc.

Brother Tom Harden - great idea!

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Brother Tom Hudson
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Brother Tom Hudson

The problem is that once a church commits itself publicly to offer sanctuary, it becomes a very easy target for immigration enforcement. Those who seek sanctuary, assuming it is actually respected, can never leave the property (to work, to shop, etc.) without running the great risk of immigration officers waiting just around the corner to arrest them, once they are off the church's property. It would seem that, rather than making very public announcements about offering sanctuary, churches should do as they did before the Civil War: quietly, almost secretly, make it known that they are part of an "underground railroad" to help immigrants.

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