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The Trump administration’s cruelty and callousness toward immigrants seems to know no bounds. After separating over 2,300 children from their parents at the border, the administration has shown a careless disregard for the importance of reunifying families now divided by state or even international lines. Distraught parents have been offered an impossible choice between deportation to a country where their lives may be in danger and remaining separated from their children. When ordering the administration to expedite the reunification of families, a federal court judge asserted that under the policy as it stood, “migrant children are not accounted for with the same efficiency and accuracy as property.”
Yet people of conscience have been fighting back. From moms with babies occupying ICE offices to New Yorkers gathering at the airport in the middle of the night to organizers who are planning a major march for this coming Saturday, everyday decent people have been saying no to this inhumane policy. And the struggle against punitive immigration enforcement does not end there.
Even before Donald Trump announced his “zero tolerance” immigration policy, growing and powerful movements had emerged to fight the detentions and deportations playing out in cities and counties far from the border. These attacks on immigrants predated Trump, but they have intensified during the last 17 months, tearing apart families and spreading terror through communities. Among the many efforts at the forefront of the pushback is the New Sanctuary Movement, a coalition of faith groups and activists working in communities all across the country. Its mission: to stand in solidarity with and, when necessary, offer protection to immigrants facing detention and deportation in their communities.
At times, this protection is quite literal. Dozens of undocumented immigrants across the United States, fearing arrest and deportation, have publicly taken sanctuary inside churches and other houses of worship in the last two years, while dozens more have gone into sanctuary under the radar. The Nation’s “Finding Sanctuary” series has documented the story of several of these men and women, including Aura Hernández who, accompanied by her children, has sought safety inside a New York church for months. She spoke to The Nation about the sexual abuse she endured at the hands of a US Border Patrol official, her decision to take sanctuary inside the Fourth Universalist Society, and her quest to tell her story and end the injustices suffered by so many at the hands of US immigration enforcement. The church that has rallied around her, the Fourth Universalist Society, is just one of the local community and religious organizations that have responded to the government’s ramped-up deportation agenda by taking it upon themselves to offer their neighbors something the government refuses them: basic security, a roof under which they don’t have to fear that federal authorities will arrest, detain, and deport them. That is: sanctuary.