Churches to provide immigrants sanctuary
By Peter Prengaman
LOS ANGELES, May 9, 2007 (www.boston.com) -- Churches in five big U.S. cities plan to protect illegal immigrants from deportation, offering their buildings as sanctuary if need be, as they pressure lawmakers to create a path to citizenship for the nation's estimated 12 million illegal immigrants.
Beginning Wednesday, a Catholic church in Los Angeles and a Lutheran church in North Hollywood each intend to shelter one person, and churches in other cities plan to do so in coming months as part of the "New Sanctuary Movement."
"We want to put a human face to very complex immigration laws and awaken the consciousness of the human spirit," said Father Richard Estrada of Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Church in Los Angeles, where one illegal immigrant will live.
Organizers don't believe immigration agents will make arrests inside the churches.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has not tried to arrest Elvira Arellano, an illegal immigrant who has taken shelter at a Methodist church in Chicago since August. Her son is a U.S. citizen and he has lobbied in the Mexican legislature on behalf of families that would be split if parents are deported.
ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice declined to say if agents would attempt to arrest others who take sanctuary in churches, although she noted agents had the authority to arrest anyone violating immigration law.
Anti-illegal-immigration groups called the sanctuary effort misguided.