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Reno church giving sanctuary for immigrants

Posted at 1:26 PM, Jan 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-17 15:26:15-05

RENO, Nev. (AP) - A Reno church is joining a growing movement among places of worship offering sanctuary to immigrants living in the U.S. illegally.
    
The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Northern Nevada became the first church in the state earlier this month to allow an immigrant to stay there, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported (http://on.rgj.com/1ZEUhRp).
    
The Rev. Neal Anderson says he does not see giving sanctuary as breaking the law, but rather upholding his congregation's values.
    
"Our declaration of sanctuary is a way to express our opposition and a desire to see an immigration system that treats families in a way that allows them to stay together," Anderson said. "We have a commitment as Unitarian Universalists to affirm and promote the worth and dignity of every person, and so we do this grounded in our religious convictions."
    
Anderson says his congregation wants to help immigrants with families who have been living in the U.S. for years.
    
The church has converted a space in the back into a sanctuary room with a cot, blanket and towels.
    
Rev. Noel Andersen of Washington, D.C.-based Church World Service is among those organizing the movement. Andersen says 11 out of 13 cases that have been documented so far ended with their deportation status being suspended permanently or temporarily.
    
"The goal is to keep families together, and lift up the story of each immigrant that is willing to speak publicly and also to raise a prophetic voice for just immigration policies and what that looks like - it certainly does not look like deporting people," Andersen said.
    
Immigration and Customs Enforcement discourages agents from entering "sensitive" locations such as churches and schools, according to a 2011 memo.