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Coloradans Threatened with Deportation Turn to Faith for "Sanctuary"

PHOTO: Colorado immigrants and faith groups are working together to form the Metro Denver Sanctuary Coalition, to help offer respite to people facing deportation. Photo courtesy of American Friends Service Committee.
PHOTO: Colorado immigrants and faith groups are working together to form the Metro Denver Sanctuary Coalition, to help offer respite to people facing deportation. Photo courtesy of American Friends Service Committee.
September 17, 2014

DENVER - Places of worship are known as places to find comfort in faith, and a group of Denver faith leaders also wants to offer relief from the threat of deportation to members of the immigrant community.

This week, five congregations announced the formation of the Metro Denver Sanctuary Coalition. It will offer a refuge to people such as Jenny, who is facing the threat of deportation. She explained her thoughts, as translated by an interpreter.

"For me, a sanctuary represents another option for those of us who have no other legal way to keep fighting our cases," she said, "because the system is so broken."

Successful sanctuary programs operate in other cities such as Tucson, Ariz., and Philadelphia. Sanctuary is not a legal immigration claim or status, but organizers say church involvement has had success in other cities where sanctuary programs exist.

An informational session is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday at the First Unitarian Society of Denver, 1400 Lafayette St., Denver. Kate Burns, a member of the First Unitarian Denver congregation, said faith involvement sometimes offers immigrants a level of protection.

"The reason for that is ICE is very reluctant to cross church doors," she said, "So, it's just a way to ensure that the immigrant gets real protection, by staying on the church property."

Jenny said a "sanctuary" provides her much-needed relief from the threat of leaving her three American-born children, or being forced to take them back to Mexico and away from the only life they've known in the United States.

"So, this gives us another option to continue resisting our deportations," she said. "It gives us the chance to take a breath and continue to work with the community to fight our individual cases."

Another part of the Metro Denver sanctuary effort includes educating their congregations and local communities about the problems immigrants face with the current state of the U.S. immigration system.

More information is online at afsc.org.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - CO