There has been a surge of illegal immigrants on American soil ever since the Central American crisis, which emerged in the late 1970’s and threatened the safety of many civilian families. The inflow of trespassers from those times never stopped, and till this date, the immigration breach still persists, especially from El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Honduras, whose volatile political atmosphere fails to provide long term peace.
January 2016 saw the occurrence of many minor raids by Homeland security forces in a bid to deport those immigrants that had already appealed to the courts for asylum status, but failed to achieve it. The Democrats, however, condemned these moves and appealed to Barrack Obama to provide temporary amnesty to those innocent immigrants, which would allow them to obtain legal work permits and start a life.
In the midst of these ongoing rallies among high-ranking politicians, many religious sanctuaries have taken the issue upon themselves to try and mitigate the immigrants’ distress. Priests and reverends of these churches feel a moral obligation to provide asylum to these helpless individuals, and sometimes, even offer legal help to stand up against Border Authorities.
Southside Presbyterian Church is one stellar example of these congregations. It has been supporting the sanctuary movement ever since the 1980’s, and with the gradual growth in the number of illegal immigrants in the recent past, it has been revitalizing its efforts to help them again. Situated in Tucson, Arizona, the church is juxtaposed with the Mexican border, making it one of the first stops for immigrants from Mexico.
According to VOA News, Southside Presbyterian Church’s reverend, Alison Harrington, says that more and more congregations feel “outraged and heartbroken” over current US deportation policies. Harrington said the Church’s flagship case was Rosa’s deportation proceedings. For a milestone 461 days, Rosa was provided sanctuary in the Church, and was finally able to roam as a free woman and meet her family in November 2015.
Even churches and synagogues as far north as New York City and San Francisco participate in this movement. The main concerns revolve around temporary housing, financial stability and protection from frequent raids in these cities. The reverends here often train immigrants to face the ICE (US Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and know their rights in these matters, because, more often than not, ICE authorities take advantage of their lack of knowledge to execute swift deportation.
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Keeping the aspects of humanity aside, diaspora of many nationalities are disheartened by the fact that despite all the legal documents, they have to wait seven years, or even longer, to obtain a Green Card and legal American Citizenship, while these immigrants are offered the same rights to live on American soil through amnesties by Democratic Presidents or the sanctuary movement that seems to have gripped most congregations nationwide.
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A commentator writes, “These are not immigrants, they are illegal aliens and criminals under our law. The first amendment to the US constitution “prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion.” To my way of reading it, that means an establishment of religion cannot be used as a sanctuary to prevent the apprehension of criminals. This means law enforcement agents must exercise their duty to enter these buildings and apprehend the illegal aliens with the goal of deporting them. If they have committed other crimes like felonies they may have to be tried, convicted, and imprisoned first.
It is interesting that the only justification I’ve heard from illegals and their supporters is that they do a lot of America’s work. Therefore a guest worker program with tight scrutiny over who enters, where they are, who pays for their cost, and no promise of citizenship or renewal of their contracts with the right to terminate them at any time and deport them should they become undesirables makes a lot of sense to me”, and even though his opinions sound harsh and inhuman on first glimpse, this argument against the American immigration system somewhat makes sense.
-by Saurabh Bodas
Saurabh is pursuing Engineering and an intern at NewsGram.
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