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Sanctuary Movement

By Christopher R Rice

Rev. Fred Morris North Hills United Methodist Church. Morris says he's ready to defy ICE officials and allow his church to be used as a sanctuary.

Morris, 82. "If ICE wants to come get them, they're going to have to break down the church door."

The seizures motivated church leaders nationwide who say they feel compelled to offer physical protection on their premises even if it violates federal law.

The sanctuary movement gained momentum in 2007 but languished amid hope that comprehensive immigration reform would happen that year. Now, leaders see the movement reemerging.

Lutherans, Methodists, Catholics and other Christian leaders across the country say they are outraged.

The group says immigration officials are violating human rights by using raids as a scare tactic against the immigrant community, and by deporting thousands of Central American refugees back to the gang violence they were escaping in the first place.

A year ago, 35 congregations across the nation promised to offer refuge in their places of worship.

The recent raids sparked such an outcry that now 500 are onboard and prepared to offer physical refuge from ICE.

Rev. John Fife, a former pastor at Southside Presbyterian in Tucson, co-founded the 1980s sanctuary movement, which gave refuge mostly to adults.

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Section 274 of the Immigration and Nationality Act prohibits the transportation or harboring of illegal aliens.

The Sanctuary Movement community sprang into action to fight back. We are working to ensure all immigrants know what to do in case of a raid, we hold
Know Your Rights trainings at congregations that are open to the general public, and organize actions to demand that the Trump Administration and ICE immediately stop all raids.

In addition to our local organizing against the raids, we are actively involved with the national Sanctuary movement of faith-based communities and work to offer a unified response: all raids and deportations violate our shared faith values.

We work to end injustices against immigrants regardless of immigration status, express radical welcome for all, and ensure that values of dignity, justice, and hospitality are lived out in practice and upheld in policy.

Inspired by peaceful movements for social change, we confront violent structures with bold compassion and courageous love.

We are a member-based organization that relies upon the generous contributions of our members and supporters. 100% of our funding comes from individual donors. Thank you for your support.


An academic paper, “
The Acme of the Catholic Left: Catholic Activists in the US Sanctuary Movement, 1982-1992,” states that lay Catholics and Catholic religious figures were “active participants” in the network protecting illegals. The paper said, “Near the peak of national participation in August 1988, of an estimated 464 sanctuaries around the country, 78 were Catholic communities—the largest number provided by any single denomination.”

One group that worked to find churches that would provide sanctuary to immigrants in fear of deportation is called Interfaith Worker Justice, led by Kim Bobo, who was
quoted by PBS in 2007 as saying, “We believe what we are doing is really calling forth a higher law, which is really God’s law, of caring for the immigrant.”   

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