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West Kensington Ministry at Norris Square, where Angela Navarro was offered sanctuary in 2014. Photo: Samantha Madera/AL DÍA News

Philly church offers sanctuary to immigrants targeted by upcoming raids

Rev. Adan Mairena of West Kensington Ministry was one of several religious leaders across the country to take a stand.

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In response to the Department of Homeland Security's plan to launch nationwide raids on undocumented immigrant families in early 2016, religious leaders have once again offered their congregations as sanctuary for those facing deportation.

News of the coming raids leaked via the Washington Post just two days before Christmas. And from Tucson to Philadelphia, pastors from the Sanctuary Movement issued a joint statement to policy makers condemning the raids, adding that "the story of Christmas is about a prophet and savior born in a stable and a refugee family that fled the political violence."

Rev. Adan Mairena of West Kensington Ministry was among those to take a stand.

"Our elected officials cannot say ‘God bless America’ and at the same time deport, exclude, dehumanize, and criminalize those who come seeking refuge, in this case God's children from Central America," Mairena said. "They are those whom Jesus called ‘the least of these.’ If we continue to go down this road of moral decay the consequences will be grave."

This isn't the first time local congregations have offered sanctuary. Nor would it be the first time for West Kensington Ministry. In 2014, Angela Navarro, a mother of two U.S. citizen children, took refuge in the Kensington church, becoming the first undocumented person on the East Coast to do so. Her story attracted national attention.

"I, and others like me, will continue to put our faith into action no matter what," Mairena added.

Mariena is also a member of the Hispanic Clergy of Philadelphia, one of the few groups that met with Mayor Michael Nutter to contest the recent changes to his 2014 executive order that limited the city's response to federal detainer requests (a.k.a. ICE holds).

Nutter signed a new executive order just days before Christmas, effectively reinstating some cooperation between local law enforcement and federal immigration officials. (Read more about the new policy here.) Several immigrant advocacy organizations condemned Nutter for making the changes in the eleventh hour of his tenure. Mayor-elect Jim Kenney has promised to reverse the changes once he assumes office.

Both Philadelphia's new policy and the upcoming national raids have brought some increased fear among the city's undocumented population. The New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia recently released a bilingual guide to help immigrants navigate the new policy in Philadelphia.

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