Churches answer call to offer immigrants sanctuary in an uneasy mix of politics and compassion

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The protesters screamed into bullhorns every Sunday for a year after Liliana Sanchez de Saldivar moved into the United Church of Christ in Simi Valley.

They told her to go home.

It was 2007 and U.S. immigration agents had shown up at her home in Oxnard to take her away. But when they saw the baby boy on her arm, they told her she had five days to get ready for a free ride across the border to Tijuana.

Instead, she packed her belongings and headed to the home of a church deacon in Sierra Madre, who eventually got her settled in the Simi Valley church parsonage while immigration advocates took up her cause and her case garnered widespread attention.

In 1986, a Presbyterian minister and seven other activists were convicted of charges stemming from providing sanctuary to Central Americans and served probation.

Andersen, of the Church World Service, said there have been 22 public cases of immigrants taking sanctuary in churches since 2014. Of those, he said, 15 received relief from deportation and seven remain in sanctuary, awaiting a decision from immigration officials. The most recent involves Emma Membreno-Sorto, a Honduran grandmother who has been living at an Albuquerque church since last week.


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