AP NEWS

Kansas churches vows to protect immigrants from deportation

July 16, 2018

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Two churches in Kansas say they’ll protect immigrants facing deportation even if it means arrest.

Newton’s Shalom Mennonite Church and Moundridge’s First Mennonite Church are two of a growing number of churches nationwide that have joined the sanctuary movement, the Wichita Eagle reported . Those churches have pledged to offer sanctuary to immigrants who live in the U.S. illegally and face the threat of deportation.

“Our mission as a church is to serve our neighbors in the name of Christ,” said the Rev. Laura Neufeld Goerzen, pastor of First Mennonite. “In the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus makes it pretty clear that our neighbor is anyone who happens to be in need regardless of their race or nationality. Designating our place as a place of sanctuary felt like a natural outgrowth of our mission.”

Some churches have opposed the sanctuary movement, saying religious spaces have no legal authority to protect immigrants or that it’s immoral to harbor people in the U.S. illegally.

Pastors at Shalom and First Mennonite have said they wouldn’t try concealing the fact that they’re housing someone, but understand there could still be consequences with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. It is considered a federal crime to conceal, harbor or shield from detection anyone who has entered or remains in the U.S. illegally.

“In my upbringing I was taught to value this idea that sometimes the church should be a witness to something can be against a law,” said Ben Woodward-Breckbill, associate pastor at Shalom.

Both churches will undergo renovations to create apartment-style spaces for immigrant families to live while they work on their legal cases.

“We can’t guarantee that ICE wouldn’t come in and remove them,” Goerzen said. “But there is an understandable hesitation on the part of ICE to arrest someone in a holy space.”

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Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, http://www.kansas.com