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Churches Providing Sanctuary for Illegal Immigrants

Churches and other faith-based groups in Chicago are providing housing and other resources for illegal immigrants in defiance of federal laws. The NewsHour reports on how these churches are part of a larger sanctuary movement in America.

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    Every weekday afternoon for the last nine months, longtime Chicago activist and minister Walter "Slim" Coleman has driven 8-year-old Saul Arellano home from school. Saul's home during this time has been a two-bedroom apartment on the second floor of Coleman's storefront church, Adalberto Methodist in Humboldt Park on the city's near west side.

    Saul and his mother, Elvira, have lived here ever since she defied deportation orders last August. In this country illegally since 1997, Arellano was convicted in 2003 for using a false Social Security number, and deportation orders were issued. She was granted three extensions in order to treat her son's hyperactive medical condition, but when the last expired, instead of reporting to immigration authorities, Arellano took sanctuary in the church apartment.

    Surveillance monitors are mounted in the living room in case the church is raided. Arellano has not left the church once since she arrived.

  • ELVIRA ARELLANO (through translator):

    When I arrived at this church, they opened their doors to me. They made me feel welcome to become part of this church, and the most important thing is, they gave me space to be able to continue to struggle to be able to stay here with my son.


    The Arellanos' experience at Adalberto Church has helped inspire a larger sanctuary movement across the country. Last month, a coalition of faith-based organizations from five major cities, including Chicago, announced it would shield undocumented immigrants from deportation, offering legal help, financial support, and, if needed, sanctuary.

  • MARTHA PIERCE, Chicago Metro Sanctuary Alliance:

    It's a big thing for a congregation to take on, because we regard it really as a real commitment to supporting these people and walking with them in whatever happens with them.


    Martha Pierce of the group Chicago Sanctuary is helping coordinate church involvement in the new effort. At a recent meeting, several local religious representatives discussed the need to step in where they think the nation's immigration laws have failed.

  • MICHAEL MCCONNELL, American Friends Service Committee:

    Mexico, tremendous hospitality to us coming there. Why can't we have that same hospitality here for people who are forced to leave their country, in this case, economic refugees, rather than political refugees?

  • SIDNEY HOLLANDER, Kam Isaiah Israel Synagogue:

    Welcoming the stranger in the Hebrew Bible really refers to welcoming, you might say, resident alien, the foreigner who lives in your midst, in our midst. And this applies absolutely precisely to the undocumented immigrants we're talking about now.