The Archbishop of Chicago has told priests that they should not allow immigration officers on to Church property without a warrant.
“If they do not have a warrant and it is not a situation that someone is in imminent danger, tell them politely they cannot come on the premises,” Cardinal Blase Cupich wrote in a letter to priests.
The letter came after President Donald Trump issued tough new guidelines that widen the net for the deportation of illegal immigrants in the US. The guidelines, according to the New York Times, are aimed at “unleashing the full force of the federal government to find, arrest and deport those in the country illegally”.
The new policy could see thousands of additional enforcement officers hired to help target immigrants for deportation.
Cardinal Cupich said the Church had a responsibility to stand with parishioners who were concerned about the new immigration guidelines.
“Their trust in you and the Church is prompting them to come to you for support, spiritual guidance and compassion. We need to stand together and clearly make it known that the Archdiocese of Chicago supports the dignity of all persons without regard to immigration status.”
The cardinal clarified that the archdiocese had not named its churches as “sanctuaries” for illegal immigrants because it would be “irresponsible to create false hope that we can protect people from law-enforcement actions, however unjust or inhumane we may view them to be”.
Gail Montenegro, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement under the Department of Homeland Security, told The Chicago Tribune that agents are still expected to abide by a 2011 directive to avoid “sensitive locations” – houses of worship — unless there is an imminent risk to people’s safety.
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