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Immigration Reform News 2014: Fathers and Mothers Seeking Church Sanctuary

First Posted: Dec 29, 2014 05:24 PM EST
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About 10 undocumented immigrants are sheltering in churches around the U.S., while President Obama's executive action is implemented.

Among them are Arturo Hernandez in Denver, Colorado, Luis Lopez Acabal in Tempe, Arizona, and Angela Navarro in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Angela Navarro, 28 years old, formerly from Honduras, sought sanctuary in the West Kensington Ministry, Philadelphia on Nov. 18 until her deportation is lifted. She was caught crossing the border in the U.S. when she was a teenager and was given a deportation order, which she defied for more than 10 years avoiding authorities as she worked as a cook, married a U.S. citizen and had two children.

"I've always lived in fear," Navarro told Reuters. "It's been horrible."

She is living in the church with her husband and children. They are allowed to leave, but she has to stay.

Under a 2011 memo, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents are prohibited from making arrests in sensitive places like churches and schools without special approval.

The New Sanctuary movement was born out of concern that both Congress and the Obama Administration continued to delay immigration reform. Even with Obama's executive action that offers deferment on deportation for three years and access to work papers for nearly 5 million undocumented immigrants, the temporary reforms still leave many families with members with no protection.

The New Sanctuary movement reignites the Sanctuary Movement from the 1980s, an interfaith campaign that encourages congregations to open their doors and offer sanctuary to those facing deportations. To date, there are 12 cities with sanctuary congregations, 24 congregations are offering sanctuary, and over 79 congregations are supporting sanctuary efforts.

The original sanctuary movement was made up of hundreds of faith communities committed to sheltering refugees trying to escape violent civil war in Central America.

"Keeping immigrant families together is a moral issue. ... I encourage all Unitarian Universalist congregations to support the Sanctuary Movement and to consider providing sanctuary to immigrants facing deportation," said Peter Morales, president of Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ, in a released statement.

Other seeking sanctuary are doing so in Denver, Colorado, Phoenix, Tempe and Tucson, Arizona, and Portland, Oregon.

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