Mid-Michigan church becomes sanctuary for undocumented immigrant - WNEM TV 5

Mid-Michigan church becomes sanctuary for undocumented immigrants

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(Source: WNEM) (Source: WNEM)

Illegal immigrants who want safe harbor have a higher power to turn to in Mid-Michigan.

A church is declaring itself a sanctuary for those worried about being picked up and deported.

"It's people who've been in the community who've been active members of the community and this is their home," said Sue Redifer, board president of First Congregational Church in Saginaw.

The church is offering more than spiritual support. It has declared itself a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants in the community in need of asylum.

"This is not the story about criminals and that such activity. These are families. These are people who have been here for decades in a system that is broken that has no path to process for people to become citizens," said Elisa Urtiaga, community organizer.

The church and its community organizing and justice wing, the Ezekial Project, said they felt a sense of urgency after learning a local restaurant was recently targeted by federal immigration and customs enforcement officers.

The church has since gained approval from its board and deacons to house and feed immigrants in need.

The church officials and activists said becoming a sanctuary is part of what God has called them to do.

"That's part of our job as a church and so there are people out here concerned with their safety and with the fact that people are being ripped out of their houses," Redifer said.

Redifer said many undocumented immigrants have been in the community for generations and came to Mid-Michigan to work in the agriculture industry nearby.

Urtiaga said she wants to help educate immigrant workers on their rights.

"You do not have to disclose any information about your immigration status. You have the right to a lawyer in that instance and you have the right to ask for a warrant upon entry," Urtiaga said.

The Diocese of Saginaw has not declared any church a sanctuary. They released the following statement:

The Catholic Diocese of Saginaw has not declared any church a sanctuary for immigrants/refugees. Doing so would suggest a level of support and security that we are unable to provide. We do strive to meet the immediate physical and spiritual needs of all who come to us seeking help. Additionally, we partner with numerous civic and community organizations to work toward long term solutions. The social mission of the Catholic Church centers on the life, dignity and rights of every human person.  

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