The Role of the Church


  • St. Luke’s and Liliana are central characters in the New Sanctuary Movement, a small but growing coalition of churches, synagogues and other houses of worship that is challenging the immigration system, despite legal risk,
  • The congregations say the immigration system mistreats immigrants and breaks families apart. They want to end raids of job sites that have led to the arrest of thousands of undocumented workers, and they’re lobbying for policies that would help keep the families of illegal immigrants together and in the USA.
  • Drawing on the tradition of sanctuary, in which churches declare themselves safe havens for those fleeing violence or prosecution, congregations have begun to view supporting illegal immigrants a moral and religious duty.
  • Congregations in about 50 cities have joined or expressed interest in the sanctuary movement, says Alexia Salvatierra, a Lutheran pastor and one of the national coordinators. Churches in Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle, Chicago and New York are helping and housing immigrants, and congregations in Miami, Kansas City and Phoenix plan to start soon, she says.
  • Salvatierra and others acknowledge their protection is mostly symbolic because the government has the legal authority to send agents into a church and detain immigrants. But they’re betting the government won’t.
  • “It doesn’t make good press for the government to go into churches,” says Julia Wakelee-Lynch, associate rector at St. Luke’s. “Many media outlets have called and said, ‘Please call us the minute something happens.’ “


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