Cristo Rey Church opens doors to immigrants in fear of deportation


The Cristo Rey Parish on Monday became the latest congregation to offer immigrant families sanctuary. 

We normally hear sanctuary in terms of a sanctuary city, which essentially means law enforcement in that town won’t actively seek out those who are in the United States illegally. 

A sanctuary church is different from that. It’s an actual place where immigrants can go, and the idea is, while they are there, they will be protected from deportation. 

The announcement Monday was met by thunderous applause. Father Fred Thelen, of the Cristo Rey Parish, said it was the right thing to do. 

“When someone’s deported even if it’s a head of a household here in Lansing not necessarily just on the border, but families are separated, families are destroyed and families that were working hard and contributing to our economy,” Father Thelen said. “So we want to stand together and say lets do whats right for everyone.” 

For at least one man at the announcement on Monday, Jamie Mora, the decision to make Cristo Rey a sanctuary church hit close to home. 

“I see a lot of situations happening like in Detroit, detaining people from their jobs, and I am one of them you know,” Mora said. 

Mora came to the United States from Mexico nearly 3 decades ago. He was detained back in 2009 near the U.S.-Canada border. The experience, he says, was upsetting to say the least. 

“I see at least 10 or 15 agents pointing guns at me which it was really..I feel..really aggressive,” Mora said. 

Although he is now here in the U.S. legally on a work permit, Mora says there are many who are waiting to hear back on their status. He says many of those people are terrified to even leave their own homes. 

“When Mr. Trump started at the White House you know everybody was really scared about what is going to happen because you hear he was speaking about massive deportations,” Mora said..

But Cristo Rey Church wasn’t the first to open its doors to immigrants in mid-Michigan. All Saints Episcopal Church in East Lansing made the leap last year. 
“Soon there will be an unbreakable chain across the state of places where immigrants can find shelter from unjust systems that would separate their families and deport them before they had a chance to make their case for why they belong in America,” Pastor Katherine Carlson of the All Saints Episcopal Church told people at the press conference on Monday. 

The Cristo Rey Church will hold a candle light vigil Wednesday night at 7 p.m. in order to celebrate the new sanctuary status. 

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