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Lansing area churches launch "community sanctuary plan"

May 25, 2017

Lansing-area churches are banding together to provide sanctuary to immigrants fighting deportation.

“I officially declare, as of this moment, that All Saints Episcopal Church is a sanctuary church,” Pastor Kit Carlson said, standing in front of her East Lansing church Thursday afternoon. She and other religious leaders announced what they call a community sanctuary effort in the Lansing area.  

Churches in the Lansing area are just the latest in Michigan to open their doors to immigrants facing deportation.

Carlson says All Saints will create a living space within the church where one or two people fighting deportation can live. Other churches in the Lansing area are discussing doing the same. 

The church sanctuary movement is growing, as the Trump administration steps up its efforts to deport people living in the country illegally.

Since the beginning of the year, arrests of undocumented immigrants is up nearly 40%. The Trump administration says 75% of those arrested are criminals.

Congress this week is moving toward doubling the number of immigration officers.

The administration’s emphasis on deportations worries Ana Cavazos. She’s a legal permanent resident. But she says children will be harmed by stepped up immigration enforcement efforts.

“This is the only land our children know,” Cavazos says, also noting many children of Mexican immigrants were born or raised in the United States. “Some of these children only speak English. And never been in Mexico before.”

Pastor Carlson understands supporters of President Trump’s immigration policies may criticize the decision to open her church to those seeking ‘sanctuary’.

“People say, ‘Aren’t you breaking the law?’” says Carlson. “Well, the law is broken.”

Pastor Carlson says it’s possible her East Lansing church may lose parishioners over the sanctuary designation. But she says it may also convince others to attend her church.