Religious Leaders #Resist Trump With Underground Network To Hide Immigrants

Religious leaders in Los Angeles felt they couldn’t stand by silently while Donald Trump rounds up immigrants and deports them, tearing families apart in the process. An interfaith alliance is taking up an old tradition of protecting the oppressed. They are creating safe housing for immigrants who are under threat of deportation where Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) can’t find them.

Religious Leaders Are Following Historical Precedents.

The movement, called the Rapid Response Team network, is squarely aligned with other historical underground movements — Germans hiding Jews in their homes during World War II or Northerners hiding runaway slaves as they escaped to free states or Canada before the Civil War. Their actions are clearly illegal, but the religious leaders feel they need to respond to a higher law.

Reverend Zach Hoover, director of an interfaith organization called LA Voice, told CNN:

The God that I worship sent a person to earth in the name of Jesus who did not always get along with the authorities. I feel really convinced that I answer to God at the end of the day. That’s who I’m going to see when I die.

A Jewish man who is opening his home as a safe harbor voiced a similar sentiment:

I think I know what the moral consequences are for me if we don’t act. This isn’t a moment to be standing idly by. This is a moment to be engaged and involved and I think we’re seeing that across America where people are saying this isn’t okay. We’re not going to tolerate this and we’ll have our voices heard.

Compare those responses to that of the executive director of the racist, extremist Center for Immigration Studies — who somehow manages to pop up in the press as an immigration expert — Mark Krikorian:

They’re committing a felony. Harboring is a felony. Regular folks hiding people in a basement face jail time because it is ultimately a smuggling conspiracy.

That’s the kind of punitive attitude that religious leaders are trying to face down. The harshness of Krikorian’s statement reflects the same callousness as Trump’s draconian deportation orders.

The Preservation Of Families Is The Network’s Highest Goal.

The Rapid Response Team network is committed to the preservation of families. As Rev. Hoover puts it, the network’s members believe that “families are the bedrock of our country.”

Private homes are being used in the effort to house these families because churches and synagogues aren’t the safe sanctuaries that many believe them to be. These institutions are considered ‘public spaces’ that law enforcement officers can enter in order to carry out their official duties. Private homes, however, have the protection of the 4th Amendment against unreasonable searches and seizures. For officers to enter a private home, they would first have to obtain a warrant.

Some of the homes are houses that have been bought by the network and refurbished to accommodate one or more families. Some are the homes of private citizens who are willing to take families in, under their own roof.

Network members are clear on their rights. The Jewish man has readied the spare room in his house for the moment that an undocumented woman and her children in need appear. He said of any attempt by ICE to gain entry:

I definitely won’t let them in. That’s our legal right. If they have a warrant, then they can come in. I can imagine that could be scary, but I feel the consequences of being passive in this moment is a little scary.

But the intention of the religious leaders is to hide undocumented people out of sight of ICE. The network could accommodate 100 people today. However, the response to the movement has been so overwhelming that soon they will be able to take in thousands.

Some of the network’s partners are offering support services. Temple Israel of Hollywood has a range of services: a volunteer phone bank calling lawmakers, volunteers who will accompany immigrants to deportation hearings, free legal assistance, food and clothing for the sanctuary houses.

The courage of the network’s members can’t be overstated. All of them risk arrest and imprisonment to #resist the Trump administration’s immigration orders. What they are doing may not be legal, but it is, in the words of one pastor, “what we think is right.”

Feature photo, ICE raid, public domain photo by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

 

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Deborah Montesano

Deborah Montesano is a longtime political activist and blogger. She learned to fight against impossible odds by living for years in Arizona, but recently relocated to the more progressive-friendly city of Portland, Oregon. Find her on Facebook at facebook.com/thepoliticali/ or on Twitter @thepoliticali_1.

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