This is a story which seems to keep popping up every couple of years. There’s an old tradition dating back much further than the founding of our country wherein people fleeing persecution by the government seek sanctuary inside a place of worship. There are noble and admirable examples of this throughout history but the practice has also been somewhat abused by those who are flagrantly violating the law and seeking to escape prosecution rather than persecution. That’s been the case on a number of occasions with illegal immigrants hoping to evade immigration and customs law enforcement. In the dawn of the new era of Donald Trump we’re seeing it yet again, this time in Colorado. (Washington Post)
On Wednesday morning, Jeanette Vizguerra was scheduled to show up for a check-in at the local office of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Service.
Instead, Vizguerra, a 45-year-old undocumented immigrant from Mexico, sent her attorney to request a stay of her deportation. As Hans Meyer entered the low-slung brown brick building, a pastor by his side, scores of protesters waving signs shouted “No hate, no fear. Immigrants are welcome here.”
A few minutes later, Meyer returned. Vizguerra’s request had been denied. Then an activist put Vizguerra on speakerphone and held it up to a megaphone and, her voice choking with tears, the mother of four delivered her announcement to the crowd: Vizguerra had decided to seek sanctuary 15 miles away in a makeshift bedroom in the basement of First Unitarian Society of Denver. There, she would remain indefinitely.
The description of the scene which unfolded, as told in the Washington Post story, is hardly one of some noble struggle against tyranny. This was a clearly staged event designed for maximum public relations impact and media attention. The gang of protesters who “conveniently and coincidentally” showed up as the illegal alien was making a statement were all carrying the usual signage with anti-Trump slogans. Attorneys were on hand and the destination at the First Unitarian Society had clearly been prearranged.
This may be the latest story in the news, but it’s hardly the only one. This article from WWLP in Massachusetts reports that others are choosing a similar path and thousands of people are signing up to assist in offering sanctuary to those seeking to evade arrest and deportation by ICE. But how effective is this strategy?
You may recall another story that we were following back in 2014, this one in Portland Oregon, where Francisco Aguirre lasted quite some time hiding out from immigration officials in a different church. In the end however, he was captured.
An immigrant activist who avoided deportation by seeking sanctuary in a Portland church was arrested on federal charges of illegal reentry Thursday morning after a court appearance.
Francisco Aguirre, a community activist who first came to the U.S. from El Salvador nearly two decades ago, was at the Clackamas County Circuit Court to settle a DUI case.
The main difference in Francisco’s case was that law enforcement never actually had to break the rules and enter the church to arrest him. The suspect left the property of his own volition for a court appearance and was taken into custody outside of the court after he was finished. If our newest media star in the church sanctuary saga has the determination and wherewithal (plus the support network to provide her with necessities) to hold out, we could be in for a long ride. The last thing the government at any level wants to be seen doing is busting into a church and dragging somebody out in handcuffs.
And who knows? Look how long Julian Assange has lasted in a foreign embassy.