Javier Flores

Javier Flores, family at his side, emerges from a Philadelphia church after hiding out in the basement for 11 long months.


Countless people report being “saved” by Christ each year, but one Philadelphia man took the opportunity quite literally. When a deportation order was issued in his name, Javier Flores sought refuge from ICE agents in a local church. The pastor and congregation warmly embraced Flores, making a room for him in the basement of the church. That was nearly a year ago.  

After months of uncertainty and anxious waiting, Flores received a waiver on his deportation order. Last week, he was finally able to leave the confines of the church for the first time in 11 months.  

An Emotional Release

A stone’s throw from the normal hustle and bustle of regular life, Javier spent his days stuck in a dimly lit church basement. His family would visit whenever they could, but those occasions were few and far between.

Reflecting on his time in isolation, Flores explains the challenges of taking shelter: “It’s very difficult to see people walking outside with their families, with their children, and not being able to do that.” 

After receiving the long-awaited good news from his lawyer, Flores finally walked free. The embattled immigrant was met by his family on the front steps, and they received cheers from a small crowd gathered to witness the occasion.

The Sanctuary Situation

Javier Flores is just one many immigrants living in the U.S. illegally who are feeling the squeeze of revamped immigration policies. Deeming these policies to be misguided, many houses of worship are fighting back. All across the country, churches are opening their doors to provide sanctuary to illegal immigrants facing deportation. Citing Christian ideals of being welcoming and showing kindness to all, scores of pastors have made it clear they intend to stand up against government immigration orders.

Dubbed “sanctuary churches”, they operate by taking advantage of a caveat in Immigration and Customs Enforcement policy. Agents are instructed not to enter certain locations such as churches, schools and hospitals – even if they are known to be harboring illegal immigrants.

That’s how Javier Flores was able to avoid deportation. As long as he didn’t leave the walls of the church, he essentially remained untouchable.

A church friendly to immigrants

Throughout the United States, churches are expressing support for immigrants and other vulnerable groups.

Church Controversy

As you might imagine, Mr. Flores is far from the only immigrant seeking sanctuary. With an administration that appears serious about enforcing immigration laws, people who once felt safe without documentation are now on edge. Those with criminal backgrounds are at particular risk of being deported.

Enter the sanctuary churches. Some people see their actions as noble and just. By standing up to the government, they are protecting marginalized and vulnerable individuals who simply want to stay in the U.S. for a chance at a better life.

However, critics insist that the churches are effectively providing asylum to criminals, which is a crime in and of itself. Detractors call for any pastor who offers shelter to illegal immigrants to be prosecuted for obstructing justice.

Deportation Conundrum

So, what should be done?

Regardless of what the law says, one thing seems clear: this issue is a PR debacle-in-the-making. Uniformed agents breaking down church doors and putting people in handcuffs is unlikely to endear the government to its citizens. The White House appears to recognize this, which is probably why they’ve chosen not to crack down on sanctuary churches.

What do you think? Are churches right to be sheltering immigrants, or should they just stick to sermons?

 

39 comments

  1. Kate the RC Duid says:

    The principal of sanctuary is something churches and humanity have had for centuries. That being said, cases should be allowed to play out to the extent of the legal system. Christian love and charity demands this of us. In this case, despite the fact that he had a minor criminal record, the immigration courts eventually allowed him to stay. What would the point have been to deport him?

    1. Rev paul collins says:

      I agree with you

      1. Kate the RC Duid says:

        Thank you Rev Collins.

    2. Grady Walker says:

      He is and the church is breaking the law. Only if he stays in the church grounds forever is acceptable. Not for hiding to escape the law for a few weeks. He entered the country illegally end of story.

      1. Kate the RC Duid says:

        The court ultimately disagreed with you.

  2. James says:

    Any way we look at it, illegal immigration is a felony. if we do not uphold our laws and constitution then what are we? In my opinion we need a restart. If you’re not a loyal American and you feel the need to fly another counties flag and send money there amid you’re illegal. Them you should be removed from this land. If a person wants to assimilate and become a true American. Then welcome. Church, school, on the job, it doesn’t matter, you’re for America or against America. No gray areas.

    1. Jessica Stuart says:

      If only the Native Americans would have had a constitution

  3. Alicia says:

    Churches need to stay out of this. They are basically helping people break the law. If they want to be a sanctuary, then they need to lose their tax exempt status.

    1. Jessica Stuart says:

      I bet the Native Americans wish they could have said that

    2. Tom says:

      Alicia…you are going in the right direction…churches should not be tax exempt on real estate taxes…other income should be subject to the usual non-profit organization rules…and as far as the individual is concerned, the hunt for 11 million illegals is as ridiculous as the war on drugs…the Obama “path to citizenship” should be refined and implemented…Tom

  4. Marcel says:

    Instead of hiding the illegal immigrants should seek to become legal immigrants. If they really want a better life they should set a good example.

    1. Sick of Unlawful Entities says:

      Amen, brother. Help them by raising funds to apply for citizenship. You can’t tell me that wouldn’t work much better.

  5. Doc says:

    Such great examples of Christians. I bet you’re for capital punishment but against abortion. Where is your sense of humanity. Thank you Trump for making it OK to show your hate in public.

    1. Jessica Stuart says:

      And that he did do.

      1. esquinton says:

        Jessica Stuart, you’re awesome!

  6. George Winfield says:

    Jeesh Doc! That was a little harsh! I’m all for making all undocumented aliens legal citizens myself by the way. America needs open borders and so does the rest of the world. Archaic and defunct 19th century ideas about “immigration” need to be flushed down the toilet.

    1. Rev. Rob says:

      yeah like France, Germany and so on,
      know what kinds of problems they got becasue of that? a helluva lot !

      1. George Winfield says:

        The problems are presented as they are to promote the false narrative that “immigrants are causing problems”.

        For instance, one reason Qaddafi told Europe they needed to help him fight off the ISIS and Al Quaeda terrorists in Libya was because if they didn’t help him there would be an enormous flood of refugees. Europe said “duh, shut up you dictator!” and america said “Yeah! We’re gonna get you! Dictator!”

        Now there is a bunch of “undocumented immigrants and refugees” causing “problems” for the countries that killed their leader and bombed the shit out of their country leaving it in the hands of the terrorists that Qaddafi was talking about.

        The problem isn’t the immigrants.

  7. paulg78 says:

    I’m with the churches on this. Our immigration law is unjust and the churches are in a position to help get them changed.

  8. George Winfield says:

    Eh! Felony Shmelony! The concept of what a “country” is evolved mostly in 19th century Europe. This is the 21st century, everything is global, so why do we use their antiquated concepts to define our identies? “Conservatives” argue LOUDLY and clearly that “Free Unregulated Trade” is sacrosanct and the best way to do business and to profit the most, so money can come and go wherever the hell it wants with no rules but people can’t go and come as they please where they please. Corraling people to create “loyal” ones to a flag makes no sense. You wanna go somewhere you should be able to go as long as you don’t harm other people.

  9. Rev. Rob says:

    the thing is, most illegal aliens roll up in here and expect and do get a lot more than citizens do and that is not fair, ! want to become a citizen? great by all means do so, but just walking across the border and saying “here i am where is my stuff?” just does not or should nto fly at all!

    1. Jessica Stuart says:

      Wow I wonder what the Native Americans thought

  10. Marcel says:

    I don’t believe our country needs to be the door mat for the rest of the world. I also never claimed to be Christian and the fact any of you are so quick to see enforcing our country’s immigration laws as an act of hate, is proof that you know nothing. Equality is when everyone is treated the same and held accountable. And sometimes that means obaying laws too. Currently the coast of immigrating to our country is $100 per person. This country is the easiest and most affordable to immigrate to. So take your white guilt and all your anti-American hate and propaganda and find another country to live in. I’ve heard the communist here want to destroy this country but none of have the balls to face true Americans in open war. Turns out they are all afraid to loose, Aww.

  11. JOHN MAHER says:

    WHEN YOUR PRESIDENT ORANGUtRUMP DOTAR FINES and JAILS the BUSINESSES A/O PERSONS GIVING PAYED EMPLOYMENT to ILLEGALS, it is NOT the ILLEGALS FAULT it is the USERS that CREATE the PROBLEMS, LIKE YOUR CARPETBAGGER RNC/GOP, JAIL the USERS that are BREAKING the LAWS !!!

  12. Dave says:

    Since when do we get to pick which laws to follow and which to ignore? In what way is it justified to enter a country illegally and then claim its perfectly ok? Makes no sense to me.

  13. PT,krystiona McCulloh says:

    Completely awesome testimony, of the love of God and the work of faith and perseverance, God is love.

    1. Jessica Stuart says:

      Amen !!!!

  14. Jessica Stuart says:

    If you’re not a Native American, you are an immigrant. No one likes to acknowledge the fact that every race of people other than Indians came from other countries some of which were forced to come here.

    1. Sick of Unlawful Entities says:

      Of course they don’t, that reminds them of a history much older and more macabre

    2. REV. DR. ENRIQUE PEREZ BLANCO says:

      Jessica, you are right. Indigenous peoples lived in what is now the US for thousands years (15,000) before European settlers began to arrive specially from England after 1600. There were also french. More than 40 scientific researchers have found the gens of 52 tribes in our country. Ponce Leon a Hispanic discovered Florida. Who are the immigrants? Love you. REv. Dr.Enrique Perezblanco (am Cuban born).

  15. Alvin Rollins says:

    My father came to this country as a illegal immigrant in1947 and after gaining citizenship he served 30 years in the U.S. Air Force. He served and pledged loyalty to a country that would not even permit him to drink from the same water fountain or to walk into a restaurant and be served even though he was in uniform. With that said I believe that the churches should grant sanctuary when ever possible. A lot of good people seeking a better way of life come to this country. I believe that the immigration issue is mostly fueled by hate and fear. Some people may have lived as a criminal in there country because there was no other way to survive so they choose to leave there and come here so that they will not have to live as a criminal any longer. Americans have a lot to learn about love and compassion for others. Just because you assist in a time of disaster does not mean that you have love and compassion for others. You just did it so they would not knock on there door to ask for help. Good deeds are not what’s needed love and compassion are. I hear so many people talking about heaven but can you exist in heaven and you don’t even love each other here on earth.

  16. Minister Jerry says:

    I continually hear the statement of “Since when do we get to pick which laws to follow and which to ignore?” when is comes to someone in this country illegally. It’s not undocumented – it’s illegal. And many feel it’s okay for someone to sneak over the fence, but not to sneak into their house. Why the difference?? And as for those who say it’s the Christian thing to do – to allow someone to come into the country illegally – well, these are the same folks who also pick and choose which parts of the Bible they follow, and which are okay to ignore. Either you are a Christian and you follow the Bible – ALL OF IT – or stop calling yourself a Christian and acknowledge your own hypocrisy in your everyday life, and the hypocrisy of calling an illegal act “undocumented”…

    My son-in-laws family fled the death squads of Guatemala – came to America legally, worked for and applied for citizenship, started their own businesses, pay taxes and aren’t on welfare. There are LEGAL ways to come to and be in this country. I have little compassion for those who haven’t made the effort.

    As to the open borders people – you really need to go live overseas for a while and you will realized how good you have it here, and why open borders would be a VERY BAD IDEA.
    .

  17. REV. DR. ENRIQUE PEREZ BLANCO says:

    The principle that carried me to be ordained in this our Church is : WE ARE ALL CHILDREN OF THE SAME UNIVERSE.

  18. REV. DR. ENRIQUE PEREZ BLANCO says:

    My dear Jessica, and Thinking that the first settlers adopted the republicanism emphasizing duty, virtue and opposition to corruption, fantasy luxuries and aristocracy. Where are now these norms? Lovely Enrique.

  19. Bill Fox says:

    Romans 13New International Reader’s Version (NIRV)
    Obey Those in Authority
    13 All of you must obey those who rule over you. There are no authorities except the ones God has chosen. Those who now rule have been chosen by God. 2 So whoever opposes the authorities opposes leaders whom God has appointed. Those who do that will be judged. 3 If you do what is right, you won’t need to be afraid of your rulers. But watch out if you do what is wrong! You don’t want to be afraid of those in authority, do you? Then do what is right, and you will be praised. 4 The one in authority serves God for your good. But if you do wrong, watch out! Rulers don’t carry a sword for no reason at all. They serve God. And God is carrying out his anger through them. The ruler punishes anyone who does wrong. 5 You must obey the authorities. Then you will not be punished. You must also obey them because you know it is right.
    6 That’s also why you pay taxes. The authorities serve God. Ruling takes up all their time. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them. Do you owe taxes? Then pay them. Do you owe anything else to the government? Then pay it. Do you owe respect? Then give it. Do you owe honor? Then show it.

  20. Rick Foland says:

    render onto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and render onto God that which is God’s……..obedience to the rule of law is Caesar’s, obedience to the commandments is God’s

  21. Vivian Harris says:

    I think everyone should follow the laws and come into this country legally as my family did. However I also believe if the House of God is willing to keep you there safe forever so be it. I just don’t see it happening there are too many illegals to hold in our Churches.

  22. James collins says:

    Mr Flores should do the honorable thing and apply for citizenship instead of being a illegal alien

  23. REV. DR. ENRIQUE PEREZ BLANCO says:

    Flores, creo que lo que dice Collins, tiene razon. Flores, Collins is right.

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