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NC Churches to Advance Sanctuary Efforts

Duke Divinity School this weekend is offering help to churches and faith leaders looking to offer immigrants and refugees a sanctuary from deportation. (Icars/Flickr)
Duke Divinity School this weekend is offering help to churches and faith leaders looking to offer immigrants and refugees a sanctuary from deportation. (Icars/Flickr)
January 26, 2017

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – President Donald Trump signed a series of border security orders on Wednesday in what he said was an effort to counter illegal immigration.

Included were orders to begin the process of constructing the wall between the U.S. and Mexico and restricting the immigration of refugees from Syria or other Middle Eastern countries.

The executive actions are concerning to immigrant advocates such as Jennie Bell, program director at the North Carolina Religious Coalition for Justice for Immigrants.

"It would impact families, for example, when people are in a mixed-status family, where the children are here legally but the parents are here illegally. What would that mean for the child?” Bell argued. "Another group that it's really scary for is DACA recipients who came out of the shadows, who have been living here legally, who have permission to work, permission to go to school."

On Sat., Jan. 28, Duke Divinity School will sponsor a conference to help religious leaders and houses of worship create a sanctuary space for immigrants. The event is intended to address a growing interest among religious communities to help vulnerable populations.

The term "Sanctuary community” refers to faith communities that offer a safe haven to immigrants threatened with deportation.

Trump also announced on Wednesday he would strip federal grant money from states and cities offering sanctuary status to immigrants and refugees. Bell said the upcoming event at Duke Divinity School will offer guidance to churches as they navigate uncharted waters to help those in need.

"How do you do the process, what are the legal implications, and then also having a chance for people to network with other local groups,” she said. “Because to give someone sanctuary, it really requires a lot of people working together. It's not just one single individual church."

According to the latest numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau, there are more than 600,000 foreign-born people living in North Carolina – almost 7 percent of the population. Nationwide, undocumented immigrants contribute almost $12 billion to the economy.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC