Churches across US prepare to provide sanctuary to immigrants under Donald Trump

Churches across the country are preparing modern-day underground railroads to shuttle undocumented immigrants faced with the threat of deportation under President Donald Trump into neighboring Canada, BuzzFeed News reported.

Officials from churches in Buffalo, New York; Los Angeles; Chicago; St. Paul, Minnesota; and elsewhere have set up networks of residents willing to host undocumented immigrants, converted church property for use as shelters and have made plans to help immigrants reach Canada, which so far has pledged to take in refugees crossing the border from the United States.

"We don't see ourselves as saviors, we see ourselves as responders and protectors," St. Paul, Minnesota's Unity Church-Unitarian co-minister Rev. Jane Eller-Isaacs told BuzzFeed. "Making that decision seems to have brought out the best of who we are."

Bishop Filipe Teixeira, of the Diocese of Saint Francis of Assisi, speaks during an interfaith news conference.Elise Amendola/AP
Pastor Abraham Waya poses inside the Central United Methodist Church in Brockton, Massachusetts, after announcing the church will become an immigrant sanctuary. Elise Amendola/AP

"There's a big surge in clergy or leaders who are not even a part of our agency who are now being compelled to offer sanctuary," Los Angeles-based Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice coordinator Guillermo Torres, who trained 135 interfaith leaders on sanctuary basics, told the news site. "The reality of hosting a family or individual that needs sanctuary is becoming more real day-by-day."

Trump's administration recently altered deportation rules to allow immigration authorities to aggressively look for and boot out undocumented persons who have not committed any crimes, abandoning the more lenient approach of prior President Barack Obama's administration. Among the changes will be renewed efforts to enlist local authorities as immigration enforcers, construction of new detention centers and even publicizing crimes committed by undocumented immigrants.

The president has also threatened to withhold federal funding from sanctuary cities, those which direct local law enforcement not to cooperate with federal authorities on immigration.