Pastor Aldo Siahaan called for an end to deportations as immigrants and activists with the New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia announced on Wednesday that a number of religious congregations will offer sanctuary to illegal immigrants facing deportation orders. Pastor Aldo Siahaan called for an end to deportations as immigrants and activists with the New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia announced on Wednesday that a number of religious congregations will offer sanctuary to illegal immigrants facing deportation orders. Credit: Charles Mostoller

On Wednesday, leaders from two churches pledged to step up and offer sanctuary to immigrants facing deportation.

"This is the time for the church to open its doors," said Pastor Aldo Siahaan, of the Indonesian Mennonite Philadelphia Praise Center church in South Philadelphia. "This is a sacred place — come."

Deportation is a very real fear for members of the Praise Center and their families, Siahaan said.

 

"From 2007 to 2010, for three years almost every single week, one of the member of the community, for sure [was deported]. For three years, we live in fear," he said.

New Sanctuary Movement organized this plan to defy current immigration laws after President Barack Obama delayed his vague promise of "executive action" on immigration by the end of summer to an unknown date.

Many believed Obama planned to use an executive order to institute "amnesty" for illegal immigrants currently in the U.S., exempting them from deportation.

"When we heard that plan, we pray, we pray, we pray," Siahaan said. "When it got delayed, we still put our faith in God — not to the president, not to the country. But as a human, we feel sad, we feel disappointed, as to why this ended like this. Why is this still going on? Why [is] the president not using this specific action?"

No immigrants are taking sanctuary in the churches at this point but if they face a deportation order, this option will now be available.

Tukkun Olam Chavurah, a Germantown-based faith organization, will also provide sanctuary — meaning long-term residence — for immigrants in need.

"Jewish tradition demands that we welcome people into our community," said Rabbi Linda Holtzman. "The Jewish community is largely either the children or grandchildren of immigrants, immigrants who, if they didn't make it to the United States were often killed, and that's certainly true in my family."

Nine other cities are establishing similar sanctuaries, including Chicago and Newark.