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Sacramento congregations pledge to shelter undocumented immigrants from raids

James Little, wearing hat at left, at St. John's Lutheran Church carries a sign in support of affordable housing during a pilgrimage with the Sacramento Housing Alliance and Sacramento Area Congregations Together (ACT) in 2013. ACT pledged Friday, Jan. 27, 2017, to shield undocumented immigrants from possible federal raids in the wake of tougher immigrant enforcement signed by President Donald Trump.
James Little, wearing hat at left, at St. John's Lutheran Church carries a sign in support of affordable housing during a pilgrimage with the Sacramento Housing Alliance and Sacramento Area Congregations Together (ACT) in 2013. ACT pledged Friday, Jan. 27, 2017, to shield undocumented immigrants from possible federal raids in the wake of tougher immigrant enforcement signed by President Donald Trump. pkitagaki@sacbee.com

Religious congregations in the Sacramento area have agreed to shield undocumented immigrants from possible federal raids, an organized response to orders signed by President Donald Trump this week calling for more aggressive enforcement of immigration laws.

Sacramento Area Congregations Together, or ACT, a social justice advocacy organization representing about 50 religious groups, said roughly 30 interfaith clergy leaders will provide some form of assistance to undocumented immigrants in danger of deportation.

So far, five clergy whose houses of worship could support families for extended periods of time would allow undocumented immigrants to stay there, sheltering them from federal immigration officers. More congregations are expected to agree to shield immigrants in their facilities. It’s unclear whether the houses of worship would physically block agents from detaining immigrants. The list of specific congregations involved is still being finalized.

Gabby Trejo, the associate director of ACT, said congregations are prepared for the potential showdown with federal agents.

“When people bear witness to injustices and families being torn apart, they’re more willing to speak up and galvanize communities to make a change and to not just watch it,” Trejo said.

Trump signed executive orders this week that called for the construction of a wall on the southern border, blocked federal aid to localities that don’t cooperate with federal immigration authorities, and expanded the number of undocumented immigrants targeted for deportation. Trump also called for the hiring of thousands more immigration agents, raising fears among some advocates that the feds will conduct the kind of workplace and home raids not seen since the 1980s.

Congregations first launched a system of sanctuaries in the 1980s, shielding refugees fleeing unrest in Central America.

Pastor Les Simmons of the large South Sacramento Christian Center said his congregation is “deeply considering” offering its facility to undocumented immigrants.

“Our deep down faith calls us to be a place of refuge for anyone in need, including undocumented immigrants and workers,” Simmons said. “Our hearts are definitely involved in seeing those that are in need being sheltered.”

Besides acting as shelters for undocumented immigrants, congregations are agreeing to host prayer vigils and provide food, clothing and entertainment to families.

Some of the region’s prominent faith leaders rallied Thursday to criticize Trump’s immigration orders. Representatives from the Muslim, Jewish and Christian faiths gathered together at the Salam Islamic Center in Sacramento to show their opposition to the orders.

Ryan Lillis: 916-321-1085, @Ryan_Lillis

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