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Church reviving sanctuary to protect undocumented

Church reviving sanctuary to protect undocumented

Buried in what the Eric Cantor defeat means for passing immigration reform are the growing numbers of children detained at the borders, along with one church’s work to protect people.

NBC News’ Mark Potter and Kerry Sanders report on the “Human Tide of Children” across the southern US border:

As he parried questions from senators Wednesday about the flood of children flowing into the U.S. from Central America, the secretary of homeland security reminded Americans that the surge is more than just a political crisis — it’s also a humanitarian crisis.

So many children are flowing across the Mexican border into Texas without their parents that government facilities are overwhelmed trying to process them all, Jeh Johnson said at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

Almost 50,000 unaccompanied children have illegally moved into the U.S. through the Rio Grande Valley since October, according to government statistics.

NPR’s Morning Edition also covered the growing surge. The beginning of Audie Cornish’s interview of John Burnett:

BURNETT: Audie, no one has ever seen anything like this before. Even 25 years ago, when Central Americans were fleeing the civil wars and coming to South Texas asking for amnesty, no one has seen the numbers they’re seeing now. I spoke to a border patrol agent earlier today. He said that the migrants, they’re crossing illegally along the river. Earlier today, there was a group of 59 who surrendered. Last week a group of 250 came over in rafts provided by the smugglers and then they surrendered to border patrol agents. And no one has seen so many kids. They say around a third of the arrivals are unaccompanied children. I spoke to a border patrol agent this morning, he told me the average age he sees is 12 to 14 years old. But on Monday, he saw a six- year-old girl caring for her four-year-old little brother who had a fever. They were completely alone. The border patrol is rushing in agents from all over the Southwest to help out. And they’re frustrated because it takes so many resources to receive and process all these migrants. It takes them away from their primary duty which is patrolling the border

Meanwhile, The Daily Beast reports that “As the immigration debate gets even more politicized, one church on the Arizona border is quietly taking up a long-held tradition of offering safe haven for families facing deportation.”

The courtyard in the center of Tucson’s Southside Presbyterian Church is as far as he can venture outside the small, windowless room he and his family have called home since they took sanctuary here two weeks ago. He cannot work or drive or even attend a barbecue in the church’s parking lot. He receives the occasional visitor, but many of his family and friends fear that associating with him could be dangerous.

“I am from Sinaloa,” he says, referring to the Mexican state that is home to the Sinaloa Cartel, the world’s most powerful drug-trafficking organization. “I am from a neighborhood where there are many bad people. I want my son to go to high school and university. I don’t want him to see what happens there.”

Neyoy is the first immigrant to take sanctuary at Southside Presbyterian in over 30 years. In the 1980s, under the direction of former pastor John Fife, the church sparked the renowned “Sanctuary Movement” by opening Southside Presbyterian’s doors to hundreds of Central American refugees fleeing the political oppression of their own governments and deportation from the United States. Though the tradition of religious sanctuary for criminals dates back to the Old Testament, church walls don’t actually offer any real legal protection for those inside. Still, local police and immigration officials alike have historically respected the bounds of church property—presumably as a means of avoiding political confrontation with the religious community.

What should The Episcopal Church do? Would your church offer sanctuary?

Executive Council meeting this week discusses this:

#ExCoun062014 calls for comprehensive immigration reform and concern for those held in immigration detention.


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