Churches resist US immigration raids

Chicago priest Rev. John Celichowski, is one of many church leaders resisting a migrant crackdown.
Chicago priest Rev. John Celichowski, is one of many church leaders resisting a migrant crackdown.

Religious leaders in many parts of the US have used their Sunday sermons to quell concerns in immigrant communities about a threatened immigration crackdown.

Dozens of churches in Houston and Los Angeles offered sanctuary to anyone afraid of being arrested. In Miami, activists handed out fliers outside churches to help immigrants know their rights in case of an arrest.

A Chicago priest talked during his homily about the compassion of a border activist accused of harbouring illegal immigrants, while another city church advertised a "deportation defence workshop."

Federal immigration agents had been expected to start a coordinated action on Sunday targeting roughly 2,000 people with final deportation orders in 10 major cities, including Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Miami.

The renewed threat of mass deportations has put immigrant communities even more on edge since Trump took office on a pledge to deport millions living in the country illegally.

Cardinal Blase Cupich, the archbishop of Chicago, wrote a letter to Archdiocese priests this month saying, "Threats of broad enforcement actions are meant to terrorise communities." He urged priests in the Archdiocese - which serves over 2 million Catholics - not to let any immigration officials into churches without identification or a warrant.

The Rev. Robert Stearns, of Living Water in Houston, organised 25 churches in the city to make space available to any families who wanted to seek sanctuary while they sorted out their legal status. A dozen churches in the Los Angeles areas also declared themselves sanctuaries.

Attendance at church services on Sunday varied.

Nearly all congregants at Adalberto United Methodist are living in the country illegally, and the Rev. Emma Lozano attributed a large number of no-shows to fear. She said street vendors who sell food outside the church also were absent. She invited the Rev. Jesse Jackson to speak to attendees and hosted a workshop for immigrants declaring it a "day of faith and resistance."

Australian Associated Press