I certainly write enough criticism of churches and religious leaders when they do the wrong thing, so let me offer praise to a church in Tuscon, Arizona that is doing the right thing by providing sanctuary to a woman who faces a deportation that would tear from her family.
A Presbyterian church in Tuscon, Arizona is taking a bold stand in support of undocumented immigrants, announcing on Monday that, for the second time in three months, it will grant “sanctuary” to an undocumented immigrant currently facing deportation by federal officials.
Rosa Imelda Robles Loreto, an undocumented immigrant who is said to have a husband, two children (ages 9 and 11), a house, and no criminal history, is scheduled to be deported back to Mexico this Friday at the hands of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. But Rev. Alison Harrington, pastor of Southside Presbyterian Church in Tuscon, said Monday that she and her congregation disagree with ICE’s position, and plan to pressure immigration agents into delaying or rescinding the deportation order by housing Loreto in their church.
“We seek to follow Christ who commanded us to love our neighbor as ourselves and also to offer radical hospitality to those in need,” Harrington told ThinkProgress. “The scriptures tell us to care for the widow and the orphan, and our immigration system creates widows and orphans every day … So we are standing by undocumented families and not allowing them to be torn apart.”…
For Loreto, who came to Tucson in 1999, members of Southside Presbyterian plan on replicating the same comprehensive campaign they mustered in support of Ruiz earlier this year. They intend to keep a 24-hour presence with her at the church, advocate on her behalf to media outlets and political leaders such as Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, and send pastors to accompany her when she meets with ICE officials. The church will also continue to work closely with a group of local immigration law experts throughout the process, leaning on them for legal guidance. The group of lawyers meets regularly at the church, and advises the congregation on cases where immigrants might be assisted by sanctuary.
The effort in Tuscon addresses current immigration issues, but housing immigrants at Southside Presbyterian also has special historical significance. When a series of violent conflicts tore through Central America during the 1980s, thousands fled northward to the U.S.-Mexico border in search of asylum. But the U.S. federal government, which provided training and aid to several Central American regimes at the time, refused to grant most of these immigrants refugee status — many in the Ronald Reagan administration argued they were actually “economic migrants.” But a handful churches along the border — led by Southside Presbyterian, then pastored by Rev. John Fife — decided to take the immigrants in anyway, housing them in their rectories and on their pews and daring the government to raid their sanctuaries. Their efforts inspired other worship communities to follow suit, and an underground railroad-style network of hundreds of churches slowly emerged across the country to harbor immigrants. The interfaith campaign was eventually dubbed “The Sanctuary Movement,” and helped put pressure on President Reagan and Congress to pass the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986.
Bravo, Christians. Well done. And this sure puts the lie to those who claim to be “pro-family” while advocating that immigrant families be torn apart.