Should ICE Bow to Churches That Serve as Illegal Boarding Houses?
U.S. churches may be attracting fewer people inthe pews, but their sanctuary business is blessed with illegal aliens moving intotheir basements.
A group of Central American migrants has resided for nearly three years inside two Austin, Texas, churches. In North Carolina, a Guatemalan national in the U.S. illegally since 1994 just marked her second year ensconced at a “sanctuary” church. And other churches from Boston to Baltimore are sheltering border jumpers and visa overstays.
The case of Juana TobarOrtega, the aforementioned Guatemalan, illustrates how religious groups furnishroom, board and a smorgasbord of services to a growing flock of illegal aliensin open defiance of U.S. immigration laws.
Before holing up at Greensboro’sSt. Barnabas Church, the 46-year-old Ortega had never set foot in the building.Since she first began hiding from immigration officials in the church basement,Ortega has “received extensive access to the legal system [though she] has nolawful basis to remain in the country,” ICE spokesman Bryan Cox said. Threeimmigration attorneys have provided more than $20,000 in legal services on herbehalf.
“We need to violate the lawin order to do the right thing,” Ortega says.
Clearly, Ortega has violatedU.S. immigration law, though she’s a little hazy on what she means by doing“the right thing.” A key tenet of civil disobedience is accepting the consequencesof violating the law in order to draw attention to the alleged immoralityundergirding it. But Ortega’s just an illegal alien who got caught and doesn’tlike the fact that her removal would be both lawful and completely moral.
Though Texas and North Carolina outlawso-called sanctuary cities, churches enjoy a de facto dispensation to offerextended-stay lodging to migrants. The wayfaring aliens are shielded by an ICE policy that discouragesfederal agents from making arrests inside “sensitive” locations, which includechurches, hospitals and schools, except in exigent circumstances.
Because Americanreligious institutions are subject only to very limited government regulation,U.S. law enforcement agencies are loathe to force entry into places of worship(even though no law prohibits them from doing so when a criminal is hiding in achurch).
In this quasi-legal vacuum, faith-based sanctuaries have more than doubled to some 800 during the past three years.
The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National HispanicChristian Leadership Conference, believes churches have an obligation toprotect illegal aliens.
“Until we accomplish lasting, comprehensive immigration reform,churches have every right to provide a safe haven for hard-working, God-fearingindividuals and families not involved in nefarious activities, regardless ofimmigration status,” Rodriguez says.
Nice try, reverend. As FAIR has noted, harboring illegal aliens is a federal crime – and there are no exceptions for the clergy.
As for separation of church and state concerns,they only seem to bother modern religious institutions when the Constitutioninterferes with their social justice agenda. Local governments across thecountry allocate funds for church-based groups that give shelter and legalservices to illegal aliens, even in states with anti-sanctuary laws. Yet noneof these institutions refuse such funds on separation of church and stategrounds.
Deep in the heart of Texas, the city of San Antonio engages in such collusion by annually funneling tax dollars to faith-based groups that aid and shelter illegal aliens.
Last year, the state sued the city and its police chief for releasing a dozen illegal aliens ensnared in a human smuggling operation. Holding ICE agents at bay, the chief handed the migrants over to Catholic Charities. They haven’t been seen since.