Finding sanctuary in places of worship
Undocumented immigrants across the country are seeking refuge in religious institutions.
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At Arch Street Methodist Church, a block away from City Hall, a man is taking refuge.
Originally from Mexico, Javier Flores has taken sanctuary inside the church since the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement appeared at his home during a raid in November of last year.
After spending 15 months in ICE-controlled Pike County Correctional Facility, Javier took refuge in the church and has been there ever since where his family and three kids visit him regularly.
And according to CBS News, Flores is not alone.
Having come to the United States in 1997, Flores has been in the United states for two decades and raised his three children to call this country home. But Flores’ story is not unique.
Taking data from ICE, the organization has stated that roughly 11,000 undocumented immigrants without criminal records have been detained and as a result more than 800 religious institutions across the country have offered sanctuary to those who seek it.
Arch Street Methodist Church is one of those institutions, “We are a sanctuary church,” said Reverend Robin Hynicka to CBS News. “My baptismal covenant, there's a vow that's taken either on my behalf when I was baptized as a child or as an adult, that I would take the power and the freedom that God gives me to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they show themselves,” he said.
This church being one of many of the establishments that ICE continues to avoid, in addition to schools and hospitals.
And this policy is not lost on many Philadelphians.
One movement throughout the city is the New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia that builds on ICE’s policy and creates sanctuaries throughout the city and also partners with churches throughout the city that are open to house those seeking asylum.
The church and activism of the group are only a small portion of an organized network of individuals who organize to ensure that the immigrant community in Philadelphia is protected from immigration officials.
A method that so far is withstanding, the efforts of Arch Street Methodist and other churches throughout the country have been the only effective force against ICE officials.
In a full series by CBS News, the topic is explored.