Churches offering sanctuary to illegal aliens from raid that didn't happen

Yesterday was supposed to be the start of the big ICE raids in cities across the country, with the agency rooting out illegal aliens who have ignored their lawful deportation orders for years. In anticipation of this, activists and politicians have been offering everything from advice to workshops, instructing these illegal immigrants on their rights and suggesting ways to thwart these lawful enforcement efforts. But on top of that, a number of churches serving primarily Hispanic congregations have been getting in on the action, with some opening their doors to offer sanctuary to those in the country illegally. (Associated Press)

Religious leaders across the country used their pulpits Sunday to quell concerns in immigrant communities and spring into action as nationwide immigration enforcement sweeps loomed.

A Chicago priest talked during his homily about the compassion of a border activist accused of harboring illegal immigrants, while another city church advertised a “deportation defense workshop.” Dozens of Houston churches offered sanctuary to anyone afraid of being arrested. In Miami, activists handed out fliers outside churches to help immigrants know their rights in case of an arrest.

“We’re living in a time where the law may permit the government to do certain things but that doesn’t necessarily make it right,” said the Rev. John Celichowski of St. Clare de Montefalco Parish in Chicago.

It’s a shame to see the churches supporting lawlessness, but sometimes compassion can take you down some winding paths. Of course, this is nothing particularly new. We’ve seen illegal aliens holing up in churches before, sometimes for years at a time. This situation might start straining their resources, however, assuming the raids ever happen.

That brings us to the bigger question. What happened to the raids after all of the announcements and press coverage? As of today, we’ve heard of a couple of scattered arrests in a few cities, but they sound like nothing more than business as usual for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Were they canceled without any official announcement or tweets from the President?

We shouldn’t be too shocked, I suppose. As I wrote over the weekend, giving everyone a month’s notice that the raids were on the way and providing an exact date was a sure fire way to lose quite a few of the individuals they had warrants for. Everyone with a deportation order was probably going to ground at a different address or heading for one of the churches mentioned above. Perhaps this was a tactic to send a message and encourage some self-deportation, as Mitt Romney would say.

Of course, the officers at ICE were no doubt aware of all this. And now, with the raids not materializing, they can sit back and wait for all of the targets to breathe a sigh of relief and begin drifting back to their usual haunts. And then the actual raids can start. (To be clear, we have no official announcement from ICE along those lines. That’s just speculation on my part.)

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