New Berlin church preparing to house undocumented immigrants and refugees

Posted at 6:43 PM, Feb 24, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-24 19:43:28-05

NEW BERLIN -- A local church is preparing to house immigrants and refugees at risk of deportation by establishing itself as a "sanctuary church."

“Too many people are illegal in our churches," Emmanuel Rios said.

Rios is the pastor of Iglesia Casa de Restauracion in New Berlin. He said it's typical to see church congregations comprised of undocumented immigrants and refugees in Hispanic communities, and that's why he's on a mission to protect those locally who fear deportation.

“We want to keep in our position to help people," Rios said. "[We want] to take care of them, and to help their families too," he continued.

Rios has partnered with Voces de la Frontera in Milwaukee to establish his church as a sanctuary church. Under this directive, he plans to open the doors of his church for food and lodging to immigrants and refugees at risk of deportation under the Trump administration.

“When folks talk about sanctuary churches, that is simply a church who may wish to allow undocumented immigrants to stay there for some amount of time," immigration attorney Kevin Layde said.

"[When churches act in this way, it's] with the understanding that immigration officers are not going to go inside and they’re not going to look for [undocumented] individuals in that place," Layde continued.

Layde's interpretation of a sanctuary church stems from a 2011 DHS Sensitive Locations memo outlined by the Obama administration. According to the memo, immigration enforcement actions generally are not to occur at sensitive locations such as: hospitals, schools, places of worship, funerals, weddings, and demonstrations.

Rios said he understands the 2011 memo is not law, but he hopes the federal government will continue to use it as a guide, despite President Trump's agenda to tighten rules regarding undocumented immigrants and deportation in America.

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