People protesting the deportation of illegal immigrants

With the future of immigration policy uncertain, hundreds of churches are stepping up to offer sanctuary to illegal immigrants at risk of deportation.

A Troubled History

I had always hoped that this land might become a safe and agreeable asylum to the virtuous and persecuted part of mankind, to whatever nation they might belong. ― George Washington

From the time of its founding, America has been a nation of immigrants. In fact, 7 of the 39 men who signed the U.S. Constitution were immigrants. The process of foreigners leaving their homelands and coming to the United States has played an important role in the country’s growth and development into a world power. However, this phenomenon has also been a constant source of tension throughout history. Some people think America should welcome everyone who seeks a better life – regardless of their race, language, nationality, or religion. Others believe that doing so will harm the fabric of American society, and we should be very selective about who is allowed to cross our borders.

Fear of Deportation

It’s no secret that this issue has gained a new significance in recent months. Officials estimate that there are about 11 million immigrants living in the United States illegally. With a new administration that appears to favor a hardline approach on immigration, these individuals are at risk of being deported. Some illegal immigrants, fearing deportation, have found a new ally: the church.

Church Protection

An illegal immigrant given sanctuary by the church

Javier Flores spending time with his son in the church basement.

Meet Javier Flores, an illegal immigrant from Mexico living in the basement of a church. After receiving a deportation order from the federal government, he sought sanctuary at Arch Street United Methodist Church in Philadelphia. The government considers churches to be “sensitive locations” – places where immigration laws cannot be enforced. To Flores’ relief, Arch Street agreed to take him in. “Jesus said we are to provide hospitality to the stranger,” explains the church’s pastor, Rev. Robin Hynicka.

Mr. Flores, whose wife and two children come to visit him frequently, fears being separated from his family. He stays in the church at all times to avoid being apprehended and forced to leave the country. The accommodations are far from luxurious – Flores sleeps on a cot in a small Sunday-school classroom. However, for now at least, he is safe from deportation. “What better work for the church to do,” said Rev. Hynicka, “than to provide what we know God gives us, our heartfelt commitment to family, whether that family comes from Mexico, or from Philadelphia, or wherever.’’

The Sanctuary Movement

The Philadelphia church is just one of over 450 houses of worship across the United States that have joined the “Sanctuary Movement”, an alliance of churches and faith communities pledging to offer sanctuary or other forms of assistance to people living in the country illegally. Some are simply offering financial aid, while others are taking a more active role. Notably, the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles has recently declared itself a “sanctuary diocese”, calling for a “holy resistance” to mass deportation.

A similar movement back in the 1980s spurred the creation of an “underground railroad” of sorts to help move immigrants around and keep them safe from deportation. Church leaders say that if the promised crackdown occurs, they will consider reactivating this network. In the meantime, they remain on-guard and watchful.

The New Sanctuary movement in PhiladelphiaThe Moral Debate

There is an important moral debate happening in the country right now. While the founding fathers may have intended for America to be a land of refuge for the poor and the persecuted, the world is also a much different place than it was back then. The question is: do we have an overarching moral obligation to accept immigrants to this country – even those who did not arrive through the proper channels?

In engaging in such a debate, it’s hard not to be reminded of the poem inscribed on the Statue of Liberty:

“Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Does America have a duty to provide sanctuary to the huddles masses of the world, or do we have bigger problems to deal with? What do you think of the Sanctuary Movement?



  1. JOHN MAHER says:

    the USA was always ready to help the NEEDY only as of LATE the RNC/GOP GREEDY BASTARDs ONLY CARE ABOUT MONEY in THEIR OFF SHORE BANK Accts.

    1. Carol Amina says:

      Thank you John Mather. I agree!

    2. Ray says:

      Sir I disagree with such langauge here. And for the record illegal is illegal. The same for killers, rapist or drug dealers. The law is the law. There is no grey area and no one is above it. Don’t like the law, change it. It cost me over $20K to get my wife here from the Philippines and one year waiting. It can be done legal. For this reason I will part ways with this church, I refuse to tolerate such behavior. After seeing your words, I will pray Trump adds another foot to the wall. Have a good day abd GOD bless.

      1. Richard Johnson says:

        Oh wow. Leaving because of one word? It’s ironic that you would not tolerate immigrants coming to this country. Many of them are happy doing the jobs that most Americans do not want. Marrying you, for instance…

      2. Kathy says:

        I wouldn’t leave because of an opinion, but I agree, illegal is illegal. Why not come the legal way? Others have done it and many of them feel the same way.

        1. Elisabeth WALKER-HERNANDEZ DIA says:

          Many countries make it very difficult for their citizens to leave and come the “right” way. Many have to leave their home country then once they have snuck in then they apply for residency or asylum but because they had to pay someone to bring them in underground from their home country they don’t know how to start the process right away. Our country has now made it very difficult for even people like this to get their status changed. The government has even made it hard for people whose parents brought them in as infants and they try to make it right when they become of age. I’m sorry but we do need to look at the immigrants whole picture before making a decision that they must remain illegal. There should be away to right their wrong.

    3. Sid Rimmington says:

      I am an immigrant. I had to obey and adhere to the USA laws in order to apply for work. A USA employer had to assert that my education and skills were in short supply, so I got my visa. I paid all my own expenses to get here. It grieves me to see so many uneducated, non-english speaking people pushing their way in as though it is their right. They all have the right to stay in their own country, get an education and then be worthy of applying for work in the USA. If they don’t qualify then they should keep working and studying until they are good enough. We have enough poor, uneducated Americans to take care of so why should the Americans get displaced in favor of the illegals?

      1. JOHN MAHER says:


  2. James Mounts says:

    Emma Lazarus’s poem is hardly a “founding document.” Everything about the statue: the acceptance, the erection, and yes even the poem, were done without government involvement. We are in no way obligated by them. We are rather obligated by The Constitution. Yes, as humans we care about all people, and we feel obligated to help them. But our obligation does not include tearing down The United States. If the last great hope for the world is destroyed, who will help the “huddled masses” then. Immigration yes, but controlled immigration which helps both the huddled masses AND America.

    1. Alan Meunier says:

      Factual history disagrees with your comment that “Everything about the statue: the acceptance, the erection, and yes even the poem, were done without government involvement.”

      March 3rd – President Ulysses S. Grant signs a bill designating Bedloe’s Island as the Statue’s site.

      February 22nd – The U.S. Congress accepts the Statue of Liberty as a gift from the people of France.

      March 3rd – President Ulysses S. Grant signs a bill designating Bedloe’s Island as the Statue’s site.

      The United States begins fundraising for the construction of the pedestal through the American Committee for the Statue of Liberty, which is chaired by William Maxwell Evarts. Bartholdi’s friend Richard Butler is also heavily involved. The committee raises $125,000 between 1877 and 1884.

      1901- Control of the Statue is transferred from the Lighthouse Board to the U.S. War Department.

      1924- The Statue is designated a National Monument by President Calvin Coolidge by authority of the Antiquities Act.

  3. Mystic Angel says:

    Immigration isn’t the problem. Coming here illegally is. My mother migrated here from Germany. My dad was a US Army soldier. After two tours in Vietnam, he was stationed in Germany, married my mother and had me. When my mother came over here, she didn’t speak any English, she couldn’t get a job, welfare, school,housing, NOTHING! She was literally 100% dependent on my dad. She went to night school and took classes to learn English, she paid the money for her naturalization, signed the papers, gave up her citzenship to Germany and is now one of the proudest Americans I know! It took her years to go through this process, and so do all the other immigrants who do it legally and go through the same process. It’s literally a slap in the face to all the immigrants who are actually willing to do it legally!
    There is a reason for this process and the reason is to prevent the disaster that is now the United States. The amount of illegals that come here, get on welfare, shoplift, sell drugs, contribute to the large volumes of identity theft, gangs, and lawyers, police, jails, the list just goes on.., we simply can’t afford it! Look at your border states. California…BROKE, Arizona…BROKE..New Mexico.. Broke…Texas… Broke!
    Here’s how it works… Many years ago illegals started entering the country and dropped a bunch of babies who are now US citizens,aka..anchor babies. These anchor babies have grown up and have taken over all kinds of government offices that deal with anything welfare, including low-income housing, WIC and many non-profits. When they come over, they either go to friends/relatives, or directed to the nearest drop-house. These people hook them up with people who give them fake ID/SS cards, usually US citizens,and many of them dead. (Identity theft) and every welfare they can imagine. They walk in applying and walk out with everything, then directed to other services that take care of housing, food, clothes, utilities, whatever. Since the anchor babies are US citizens, it is easy for them to do this. Meanwhile, US citizens go in and either have to wait or are denied all together because “they don’t qualify”. Many of the men work under the table and since they were not married in the US, they don’t have a marriage certificate, so their income is not recorded. Many of them will also apply under several different name, doubling,tripling, or more the benefits they already receive. Then they get another name and will obtain a mortgage loan under the stolen identity. If they default on loans, then they walk away and if the identity who was stolen is still alive, they have to front the bill. (I’ve seen all of this!) This doesn’t include the theft. They will usually use their WIC/food stamps to buy the food and steal clothing,shoes, dvd’s, HBA,cosmetics, basically everything else. And it’s NOT the cheap stuff! (Yes, I worked LP for several years and the majority were illegals!) Then, they send over half of the money they have to Mexico. The bottomline is the amount of resources that are spent in the communities don’t even come close to covering the costs of the resources being used! It’s no wonder everyone is going broke! But in California, you don’t need to jump through hoops because illegals can get driver’s licenses! Yet, they have no INS, so when they are caught for crimes, many are released and he cop say’s “there is no way for us to know who they are and they won’t show up for court anyways” so they get another identity and start all over!
    There is no incentive to becoming citizens because they have more rights then citizens! If you want to help people, go to their country and help them fix the problems they have, but don’t hand over the farm because you won’t have a farm anymore! And that’s where are at now! To much money and to many people. We can’t save everyone and at this point, we can’t even save ourselves!

    1. Sid Rimmington says:

      I agree. Your story is similar to mine. Illegals are allowed to exist because we have a weak government. It pointless starting wars in Iraq, Syria and God knows where else if we let the societal rot of illegal migration go unchecked and pull our society down to the level of a rat-hole country. The illegals homelands do not have welfare systems similar to ours so obviously a free American hand out is better than staying at home with nothing, and doing nothing.

      1. Reverend Krystina Szabo says:

        They are Undocumented Immigrants, not “illegals.” Undocumented Immigrants have been proven to be a net benefit to our country. Ignorance and hate and bigotry and xenophobia ought not to be characteristics of a person in the ministry. Any ministry.

  4. James Mounts says:

    Wow, someone knows how to google. But you neglected to post all those events which oblige us to use the poem to guide our government decisions.

    1. Alan Meunier says:

      Perhaps the same very same events that “oblige” our government to pass laws based on “Christian Values”?

      1. James Mounts says:

        I will make my point once more. Maybe it will sink in this time. How long do you think those “Christian values” will last if we keep letting in those who don’t live by them, and refuse to adopt them, but rather expect us to change for them?

        1. Alan Meunier says:

          I was being extremely rhetorical as the USA is NOT based on “Christian” values…but some folks (passing laws) seem to think so…and would like it to go both ways. Back in the day they use to ask “WWJD”…and now seldom, if ever, act on it while at the same time attempting to create a theocracy. Hypocrisy 101.

          1. James Mounts says:

            Render unto Uncle Sam, that which concerns the US security, and to JC that which makes you feel smarter.

  5. Kirk says:

    Illegal is still illegal! Blame the illegals for their troubles (and those of the government employees overworked with 11 million illegals to deal with) not the Republicans! The Democrats are fostering this illegal behavior!

    1. Reverend Krystina Szabo says:

      Once again, they are human beings. Undocumented Immigrants, not “illegals.” And the FACT is that these human beings have been proven to be an economic BENEFIT to our country. Please get your facts straight. The Democrats want common-sense answers to the problems posed by people being undocumented. The Republicans are showing a racist and xenophobic hatred of these people, similar to other Nazionalists throughout time and throughout the world. This need to blameshift and vilify is UN AMERICAN and unfit for a person who espouses a life of service to others (we, ministers).

  6. Lloyd Hargrove says:

    [Rom 13:1-5 KJV] 1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. 2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: 4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to [execute] wrath upon him that doeth evil. 5 Wherefore [ye] must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.

  7. Richard Filaski says:

    One Word: illegal !! Follow the rules and laws and I don’t have a problem. That’s why our Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution.

  8. Reverend Krystina Szabo says:

    Churches in the United States have had a long, proud history of supporting immigrants, both legal and illegal. Kudos to the churches who sponsor refugees, especially. I remember when every church in Ann Arbor was proud to sponsor a refugee family–especially the Laotian “boat people.” We are responsible to care for our fellow human beings. I applaud churches which continue in this important work, especially in the frighteningly Xenophobic and Racist climate our country is expressing through this last election. Compassion is our idiom. Preaching tolerance, love, and being good Samaritans is our responsibility.

    1. HSW says:

      Thank you. I was beginning to think the good people had left the building. Too many people are letting fear trump (pun intended) the compassion, tolerance, and love you speak of. The rhetoric that paints refugees as criminals is itself criminal. I’m betting most of the “build the wall” people call themselves Christians, yet Christ would be ashamed of not only how they treat their fellow man, but how they speak.

      1. Sid Rimmington says:

        Refugees may not be criminals, but we need to check just to be sure. Remember we already have a large population of home grown, All American criminals that continue to destroy our society so I see no need to swell their ranks with foreign riff-raff.

        1. Reverend Krystina Szabo says:

          Sid, you are conflating refugees with immigrants with “illegals.” I know it must be confusing to you. So. REFUGEES are NEVER criminals. They have been PROVEN to be people who, through no fault of their own, will be killed if they remain in their country of origin. They are “vetted,” and the United Nations is the responsible agency for determining who is a REFUGEE. Immigrants are people who move INTO a country, no matter their legal status. Some immigrants have “papers,” and some do not. Some immigrants overstay their “papers.” Refugee and “illegal” are SUBSETS of IMMIGRANT. “Illegal” means not having current papers giving permission to stay, and there are FEWER criminals among “Illegals” than among the GENERAL POPULATION of AMERICAN CITIZENS, for your information!!! However, Refugees are ALWAYS LEGAL, and NEVER CRIMINALS. Okay now?

  9. Minister Dave says:

    When you shelter a person you offer hope. Not every person whom seeks the church to hide from the elements is a felon. How many times have people tried to see and gain another way a safe way of life . I can not deny my home to anyone whom has a plan and now hope. Kinda hurts being so rich. What happens to culture ask will work. Bad people do get through. Through what. U s a not great power. Anyone can build a wall. Few can talk.

    1. HSW says:

      You’re a good man, Minister Dave.

  10. Bernard Moleman says:

    I say send them all back! 11 MILLION immigrants here illegally, and I’ll tell you what, they aren’t doctors and teachers! It’s plainly put in the BIBLE: zero tolerance for illegal immigrants!

    1. Richard Johnson says:

      The only reason that they “Aren’t Doctors or Teachers” is because of the right pushing their personal RACIST agenda on us. In order to “Make this country great again”, the government needs to put more money into schooling for these underprivileged children instead of criminalizing them and “Sending them back” as you so eloquently put it. Just look at Canada. Canada is making it easier for immigrants to become citizens and they are a better country for it! We need to look at to our neighbor to the north and try to imitate what they are doing. They are doing it right!!

      1. Carol Amina says:

        Thank you Richard Johnson! I find myself without words for people like Bernard Moleman and his side kick trump. Well said my friend. thank you

    2. Carol Amina says:

      I am sure you can figure out where I would like you to sick your bible.

  11. maiane santos Santos says:

    This is great news, just great, I’m going to listen to Obama now for more great news, I can’t believe all this news and it’s all great, wow, I couldn’t ask for better news to make a great day, great just great.

    1. hsw says:

      I’m going to assume that if there was a sarcasm font you’d be using it?

      1. maiane santos Santos says:

        The funny thing is you are half right, but the other half is if I put a legitimate feeling on this board it gets canned, just because I come from a different country the mods prove that free speech ain’t that.

        1. hsw says:

          I’ve never seen a comment removed from this board, no matter how vile. I sometimes wonder if its moderated at all.

          1. maiane santos Santos says:

            It is, and they do. And as for vile, I know what you are saying, but don’t knock the morons who play piano in hooeywood, the powers that br don’t like that.

  12. Ed McLaughlin says:

    The immigration issue is way too complex and important to solve in this forum. However, the issue of the Church deciding which of our laws to break is a slippery slope, dumping them into the quagmire of political correctness, We have Courts and Legislators to decide if a law is wrong or needs to be adjusted; let’s not get the Church involved in taking that action.

    1. hsw says:

      Yep let’s definitely leave it to the people who made the laws to decide if they made a mistake. I guess it missed your notice that churches are among the entities who have fostered change all down through history. They have been on both sides of many battles, but they’ve always been there. In recent history, during the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Era, churches and their ministers played a big part in working for and creating change.

      Churches continue to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, and many more acts that directly impact both society and the face of change. When people with AIDS had no place to turn in my area, it was a church that founded a free clinic that has since become the most active resource for people with HIV in the state. Churches in this area have banded together to provide overflow shelter for the homeless on bitter cold nights when some would otherwise not make it through the night.

      Churches are providing resources and shelter for immigrants, both legal and undocumented. Until the pendulum of society swings back to a place of compassion and love, may they continue to do so.

      For the record, I’m an atheist, but I’ve lived through all of what I mentioned. Were it not for the Berrigans, much of what the Pentagon Papers revealed might still be unknown. Were it not for one minister, Dr Martin Luther King Jr, the country might have exploded in flames rather than passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964. So many examples, so little time.

      1. Reverend Krystina Szabo says:

        HSW, thank you for your spot-on response. I agree with you! On a related note: why do churches exist, if not to fulfill the mission of the faithful, who in these cases are likely followers of Jesus.
        The Social Justice movement of the 70s, and the WWJD movement of the 90s show that, truly, the Greatest of these is Charity (Love in Action), and that Faith without Works is Dead (James 2).
        Although I am an interfaith minister, I certainly follow the Jesus way in terms of his message of compassion and his call to action.
        I have also seen the compassion and good works of the Muslim community in Flint and Raleigh, and the Sikhs in Ann Arbor, as well as the Buddhists. The Jewish community was central to the U.S. civil rights movement. We are all brothers and sisters.

      2. Lawrence Rupp says:

        Most commenting here seem to be FlatEarthers, who believe the earth is flat and goes on forever, thus producing no end of natural resources to sport an ever growing population. Wake up! the /earth is a globe with finite resources, already overpopulated far beyond sustainability.

        1. hsw says:

          I see nothing here to support your assertion, which as far as I can has zero to do with the topic. The immigrants are already here. If you want to reduce the Earth’s population, which in principle I support, work for better education on family planning and birth control in their countries of origin, and educate those here who believe large families are some sort of Christian virtue.

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