Muslim, Christian and Jewish spiritual leaders from across Bryan-College Station are putting aside doctrinal differences and focusing on scriptural similarities to determine how they can best join forces to support immigrant and refugee communities during a period of anxiety and uncertainty.
Since taking office, President Donald Trump has issued orders instructing the Department of Homeland Security to hire 15,000 Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and Border Patrol agents and broadening the parameters of prioritization of forced removal to include more immigrants. Trump's policies have left many immigrants across the country -- including some in Bryan-College Station -- afraid to leave their homes.
Spiritual leaders throughout Bryan-College Station have stepped in to assuage some of their concerns; De Leon estimated that between 15-20 clergy members have been meeting with the Brazos Interfaith Immigration Network, or BIIN, for the past several months to determine how to work together to advocate for immigrant and refugee communities.
De Leon laid out a number of explicit actions he said his church could do to support immigrant and refugee communities across Bryan-College Station.
"When we think of being a sanctuary church, our minds go to an open-door church where immigrants are housed," said De Leon. But being supportive of the sanctuary movement, he added, could involve "meeting people where they are versus harboring undocumented immigrants."
Among the options are visiting immigrants being held in detention centers, helping to find legal counsel for the detained, holding fundraisers to pay lawyers to help those about to be deported in getting their affairs in order and getting trained to participate in Sanctuary in the Streets, a four-hour class taught by the Austin-based Grassroots Leadership. Sanctuary in the Streets teaches supporters to be witnesses to ICE raids by live-streaming arrests using cell phones and engaging in direct-action protests in response to immigration raids.
Alejandro Caceres, a representative from Grassroots Leadership, said that 250 people had been certified through the training in the Austin/Central Texas area. About six are certified in B-CS.
None of the houses of worship in this article have formally become part of the sanctuary movement, though Friends Congregational Church will have a congregational discussion and vote today on whether and how to pledge support to the sanctuary movement.