California and other states that border Central America are often places where people who are fleeing from violence come across into the United States seeking asylum. Unfortunately, not every person who has escaped from life-threatening conditions is granted refugee status. NPR reports that some churches in the country are now providing a few of these undocumented immigrants with a temporary home while working to appeal deportation orders.
This activity is not new, as hundreds of fugitives sought protection from federal agents within places of worship across the country in the 1980s. Some preachers during that time period were arrested as a result. Churches are breaking federal law by granting sanctuary to those in the United States illegally, and not everyone who has been harbored by a congregation has successfully avoided being deported by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Church leaders and advocacy groups hope that seeking media attention and assisting with the appeals process will be enough to prevent immigrants from being sent back to dangerous home countries. NBC News reports that some say the U.S. government’s acknowledgement of the violence and attempts to address it prove that the situation is too volatile for women and children to return to. They believe these immigrants should not have their applications for Temporary Protected Status denied.
The aid sent to El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala by Congress may help the governments there to make their countries safe again. Until that time, opening TPS to this population could help 750,000 immigrants or more. These people would then be able to live and work in the United States until the threat of violence is past.