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Immigration Debate: NC Churches Called to Law of Love

So far, three North Carolina churches are offering sanctuary to people at risk of deportation. (Diane Brennan/flickr)
So far, three North Carolina churches are offering sanctuary to people at risk of deportation. (Diane Brennan/flickr)
September 14, 2017

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – With the future of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and of Dreamers and other immigrants in question, a growing number of North Carolina churches are being called to offer a solution.

Based on current immigration policy, churches are institutions that immigration officers will not enter to enforce orders, and this weekend at least 30 congregations are gathering at events in Chapel Hill and Raleigh to learn how they can become sanctuary congregations.

Rev. Susan Steinberg, acting head of staff and associate pastor for faith formation with United Church of Chapel Hill, is hosting one of this weekend's events.

"People of faith are called, whatever context they find themselves in, to discern how best to fulfill the law of love,” she states. “Every moment, every time presents an opportunity to fulfill that mandate."

Nationwide, 800,000 people are at risk of deportation if Congress does not pass a replacement for DACA. Twenty-seven thousand of those are in North Carolina.

So far three churches are offering sanctuary to people at risk of deportation in the state. The process for a church to be designated as a sanctuary can take as long as a year.

To become a sanctuary location, churches must find agreement among their congregation and make sure they have the infrastructure to host the day-to-day needs of a family or individual.

Jennie Belle, program director for farmworker and immigrant rights at the North Carolina Council of Churches, says the council is working to get churches online before the six-month deadline arrives.

"If Congress doesn't act to pass legislation to protect those people, they're going to need places to go,” she states. “Many of them are in schools, many of them have jobs, they have family here, and to protect them and keep them safe, we are hoping that we will have more churches that will be willing to open up their doors."

Steinberg says her congregation began to discuss the possibility of getting involved following actions by the Trump administration.

"When the administration began to roll back these policies on immigration and on the path to citizenship, we began to discern a call to protect our neighbors," she explains.

You can participate by registering at the North Carolina Council of Churches website.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC