Providence church to provide sanctuary to undocumented immigrants

By: Chloe Leshner

cleshner@abc6.com

@ChloeLeshner

PROVIDENCE (WLNE) — A Providence church is following through on its promise to protect undocumented immigrants in Rhode Island at risk of deportation. This is the first church in the state to publicly declare it’s built a sanctuary for those families. Today as they made their daring announcement, they had a high profile supporter in the crowd.

There are plenty of risks that come with this decision but the Reverend of the church tells ABC 6 News it was actually a very simple choice to provide a safe haven for people in need.

The First Unitarian Church opening its doors to those at risk of deportation.

"For us, we can’t stand by and do nothing, we have to step up and help people who need help," says Jay Glasson the President of the Board of Directors for the church.

The congregation voted overwhelmingly to provide shelter to undocumented immigrants, going as far as to build a room for them.

"It was following the last presidential election and it was clear that the climate was changing around what was going to be happening with immigrants. It had already been a difficult climate for people who were undocumented and now it was going to get a lot harder," says Reverend Elizabeth Lerner Maclay.

Dozens of community members gathering to pray and dedicate that space, Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare representing the city, a sign city officials support this decision even though it’s risky.

"There’s a risk that people who don’t believe as we do in the rights of immigrants in this country may target our church," says Glasson.

That’s why our cameras weren’t allowed inside the sanctuary room.

Volunteers are being trained to stay at the church around the clock to help if any problems come up. But ICE has a policy to not go into places of worship to round up immigrants.

"It’s an important boundary. The sacred space of our congregations is something that matters to all of us here in America and I hope the federal government will respect that," says Lerner Maclay.

Church officials say they’ve been getting a lot of help from other faith communities and they say they’ve already been approached by immigrants who need help.

(C) WLNE/ABC 6 2018