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Churches form network to protest immigration proceedings

A new nationwide movement to help immigrants avoid deportation could assist scores of Texas residents in the coming months. The initiative, which has been named Sanctuary 2014, is a program supported by dozens of churches in 12 cities throughout the nation. Those organizations say they will open their doors for illegal immigrants who are currently facing deportation. The program may help many avoid detention while they await a decision in their immigration cases.

The cry of "sanctuary" may seem outdated, but many Americans do not realize that the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has a policy prohibiting intrusion into religious facilities. Agents are restricted from arresting illegal immigrants at churches, mosques, temples, synagogues and other places of worship. Further, that policy prohibits enforcement actions that target protests; schools and hospitals are also generally considered off-limits.

Representatives from the churches say they are confident that the agency will not intrude into their places of worship. The policy only allows agents to enter such premises if the immigrant is considered a dangerous criminal or an imminent risk to national security. Church members say they realize that they are taking a risk in housing the illegal immigrants, but they intend to take a stand against what they see as unfair immigration policy.

This is just the latest in a series of high-profile actions that have pitted churches against the government during recent immigration debates. Church officials have been active in protesting against such unfair policies as a 2005 proposal that would have criminalized aiding an illegal immigrant. Those religious leaders opposed the measure, saying that they should not face prosecution simply because they opt to provide a meal or a ride to church for an illegal immigrant.

The debate about immigration is sure to rage on. However, it is important for illegal immigrants to realize that they still have rights and legal options in U.S. courtrooms. The use of an immigration attorney may increase the likelihood of a desirable outcome for your immigration proceedings. Immigrants should not have to resort to finding sanctuary in our nation's churches; they should be protected under fair, unbiased law.

Source: The Washington Times, "Church network offers sanctuary to illegal immigrants to avoid deportation" Stephen Dinan, Sep. 24, 2014

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