East Lansing Church Declares Itself A "Sanctuary Church"

May 25, 2017

A church in East Lansing said it may begin housing undocumented immigrants in a few months. 

  

Members of All Saints Episcopal Church in East Lansing plan to house up to two people whose U.S. citizenship in question. 

Rector Kit Carlson said her church voted to become a sanctuary church on Tuesday night. The residents could move in by late summer when the church will complete facilities to accommodate them.

"We don’t draw lines between human beings," said Carlson during a news conference on Thursday. "We don’t draw lines because of their immigration status."

Carlson said the community group Action of Greater Lansing and the American Civil Liberties Union will screen potential residents. She said people with felony offenses on their record will not stay at the church.

"The kind of person who might come to live with us who would be a person here who is a contributing member of society," said Rector Carlson. "Who does not have felony offenses on their record, who is probably either married to a U.S. citizen or has children who are U.S. citizens and  who would be separated from their family as a result of their immigration status."

Jaime Esquivel of Cristo Rey Community Center, which is Catholic, supports what All Saints Episcopal is doing. He said families with undocumented members are living in fear. 

"They really afraid to go to the streets, to go to places like schools you know or doctors you know, because they’re afraid to drive with no license," said Esquivel.

U.S. immigration arrests increased nearly 40 percent in early 2017 as newly emboldened agents under President Donald Trump detained more than 40,000 people suspected of being in the country illegally — with a renewed focus on immigrants without criminal convictions.

Overall, 41,300 people were arrested for deportation, a 38 percent increase from a comparable period last year. Nearly 11,000 had no criminal convictions, more than double the number of immigrants without criminal convictions arrested during a comparable period last year.

While critics say illegal immigrants are breaking the law, Oscar Castaneda with Action of Greater Lansing said the undocumented pay taxes and contribute heavily to Michigan's farming economy.

"Have you walked in a dairy farm? You walk in a dairy farm and everybody looks from south of the border," said Castaneda. 

Rector Carlson said she is prepared for protests.

"This doesn't stop us from doing the right thing, what we believe God has called us to do."