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Catholic churches in California’s Bay Area say they are ready to shelter undocumented immigrants within their walls if that’s what it takes to protect them from new, aggressive deportation policies.
President-elect Donald Trump was notorious for his blunt remarks about undocumented immigrants in the US during the election process. The mogul-turned-president promised to build a wall along the US-Mexico border and that as soon as he takes office, three million people will be deported.
In the face of Trump's approaching inauguration, the Catholic church in Santa Clara County has identified about 20 places of worship that will serve as sanctuaries if the crackdown on immigration becomes a reality. Reverend Jon Pedigo of the Dioceses of San Jose, who is a member of citizens group called PACT (People Acting in Community Together), said activists involved in the project, which works mostly in middle- and low-income neighborhoods, feel responsible for protecting immigrants residing in the Bay Area.
According to Pedigo, Trump's approach to immigrants is irresponsible, especially considering families that are at risk of being separated. But it is not just a question of morality, he added, but one of economy, since small and large businesses will suffer.
Under federal law, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials are directed to avoid raiding churches, schools and hospitals. Pedigo stressed that the organization's goal wasn't to make a political statement but simply to provide refuge, support, safety and stability to those in need. "It's to prepare for the worst, but hope for the best, in case anything happens so we won't get caught off guard," he said, as cited by IBTimes, adding that the activists saw diametrically-opposite reactions from people they encountered to discuss the proposal. Churches beyond Santa Clara County are getting involved, too. The Church World Service estimates more than 400 churches nationwide are willing to take in people at risk of deportation. A growing number of synagogues are also involved in providing some form of help.