As the Trump administration’s immigration enforcement efforts continue to increase, hundreds of churches have begun offering sanctuary to undocumented immigrants, in hopes of protecting them from arrest and detention by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. Some immigrants have been living extended periods of time within church walls. However, the reality is that even a church is not really a safe haven for undocumented immigrants.

Can ICE Legally Enter a House of Worship?

ICE agents legally can enter a church, mosque, synagogue, or any house of worship, and detain undocumented immigrants. In fact, the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) prohibits anyone from “knowingly harboring an undocumented immigrant” in any place, including a building. A person who is convicted of this crime can face years in prison. Therefore, the pastor of a church theoretically could be charged and convicted of this crime if he or she knowingly allowed an undocumented immigrant to stay in the church to avoid arrest, detention, and deportation.

Nonetheless, ICE generally has not arrested immigrants in so-called “sensitive locations,” perhaps seeking to avoid the adverse publicity that would result from an arrest made in a church. In some situations, however, ICE does not rule out arrests in church or other sensitive locations, such as where there are national security, terrorism, or public safety concerns. Likewise, prosecutors typically will not go after priests or pastors for violations of the INA, although the law does allow them to do so.

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Places of Sanctuary for Immigrants

Churches have not been the only places to offer sanctuary to undocumented immigrants. Schools, hospitals, college campuses, and community centers across the country all have committed to providing sanctuary for undocumented immigrants. Some cities and the entire state of California have declared themselves as sanctuaries, as well. These communities limit local law enforcement officials from sharing information with immigration authorities.

Facing Deportation? Call Landerholm Immigration, A.P.C. at (510) 491-0291.

When you or a loved one are detained and face deportation for any reason, Landerholm Immigration, here to help. We care about you, your family, and your ability to remain in the U.S. As a result, our California deportation defense lawyers stand ready to build the strongest possible deportation defense case on your behalf. Contact your Oakland immigration lawyer today and learn how we can advocate for you and your family in your deportation proceedings.

Related Reading

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Facing Deportation? Contact Landerholm Immigration, A.P.C. online or call (510) 491-0291 for a free case evaluation.