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'New Sanctuary' Churches Aid Illegal Immigrants


Churches in five major cities throughout the country are joining in a “New Sanctuary Movement” intended to help illegal immigrants.

It will include efforts to provide legal help and other assistance, but at least some of the churches plan eventually to offer shelter within their buildings to one illegal immigrant facing deportation, reports AP. Authorities likely will be reluctant to arrest immigrants living within churches, and the movement will help make the public aware of the plight of illegal immigrants, organizers say. The sanctuary movement is intended to pressure legislators to pass laws making it possible for the nation’s estimated 12 million illegal immigrants to win government permission to live here.

Proponents say current U.S. immigration laws are harsh and unfair. “We want to put a human face to very complex immigration laws and awaken the consciousness of the human spirit,” says Father Richard Estrada of Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Church in Los Angeles, which is participating in the sanctuary program.

However, opponents say the effort by churches in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Diego and Seattle is misguided. “We are talking about illegal immigrants taking someone else’s job, filling up the classroom of someone else’s child,” says Ira Mehlman of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

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