The leaders of six Detroit-based congregations have decided to take a stand against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, planning to act as the “front lines of protection” for those living in the United States illegally.
During a news conference Tuesday at Central United Methodist Church in Detroit, the faith leaders announced they will provide “sanctuary for endangered immigrant families,” even providing housing for those at risk of deportation, according to MLive.
“We believe that breaking families apart is wrong,” said the Rev. Jill Hardt Zundel, pastor of Central United Methodist Church. “We will give comfort to the afflicted and shelter to those who suffer. No one will live in fear while under the protection of our church.”
Currently, Zundel is housing an African family seeking political asylum in the church. She is protecting a husband, wife and four children over the age of 7 after their father was murdered for speaking out against his government and the wife, who has since been released from the hospital, was thrown from a second-floor window.
Zundel offered this message to President Donald Trump: “If you want these families, you're going to have to come through us.”
The Birmingham Temple for Humanistic Judaism in Farmington Hills, Michigan, is another group offering protection to illegal immigrants “at their time of need.”
“We have a choice in this country, and we as secular humanistic Jews understand what happens to people who make the wrong choice,” Rabbi Jeffrey Falick said. “So I stand here today not only for my congregation, but for millions of Jews who were left abandoned and whose legacy to us, whose lesson to us, must be that we cannot abandon others at their time of need.”
And Imam Mohamed Almasmari, leader of the Michigan Muslim Community Council, called the deportation of illegal immigrants a “dreadful” policy that is “against the spirit of America's most sacred beliefs and cannot be allowed to stand unchallenged.”
“We support sanctuary both to help families but also to stand up for America we believe in: strong, vibrant, multicultural democracy where everyone has the opportunity to flourish,” he said.
The religious leaders’ announcement comes nearly a month after White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Trump wanted to “take the shackles off” agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security and ICE.
“The president wanted to take the shackles off individuals in these agencies and say: ‘You have a mission, there are laws that need to be followed; you should do your mission and follow the law,’” Spicer told reporters.
In an executive order signed in late January, Trump called for the removal of those living in the U.S. illegally who “have been convicted of any criminal offense,” “have been charged with any criminal offense,” “have committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense” or “are subject to a final order of removal.”
And in mid-February, DHS Secretary John Kelly, seeking to implement the president’s immigration priorities, ordered the hiring of 5,000 additional Border Patrol agents along with 10,000 new ICE officials.
These Detroit faith groups are not the only ones taking a stand against the deportation of illegal immigrants. As previously reported, public schools in Illinois, Pennsylvania and Colorado are also opposing ICE.
School administrators in Chicago, Denver and Pittsburgh have instructed teachers not to cooperate with ICE agents, should they come to the schools looking for students there illegally.