Alabama churches, leaders have offered sanctuary for immigrants

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — As federal raids on immigrants living illegally in the country have become more common, nearly three dozen churches in Birmingham have offered sanctuary for those fearing deportation.

Over 30 pastors and religious figure have signed a letter, offering their churches as refuge for immigrants who fear the raids could happen in the city. The letter says, “Though we represent diverse theological perspectives and traditions, our mutual commitment to the scared and ethical treatment of our neighbors transcends boundaries: we believe in loving our neighbors as ourselves, in doing no harm, and in seeking ht best for every member of our community. We believed that our ethical and theological commitments require us to take a stand against policies and language that dehumanize our immigrant siblings.”

The letter goes on to say, “our houses of worship will be a sanctuary for those seeking refuge. We will not allow immigration authorities to enter into our houses of worship without a warrant signed by a judge.”

Alabama’s Hispanic population comes in at 3.96%. Raids by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) across the country, and most recently in our neighboring state of Mississippi, have the state’s Latino communities in fear.

CBS 42’s Malique Rankin spoke with Hadassa Barros, a Brazilian immigrant living legally in the United States, on how the fear of raids has become a concern.

“Some of the immigrants, like me, they are legal. But there are a lot of them that are illegal. They are concerned about the kids, the families, with how to proceed with everything,” Barros said.

Barros and her family have been living in Alabama for two years. She said it’s terrible to see how ICE can tear families apart.

“Nobody is expecting immigration to knock on your door, like what happened there [in Mississippi]. What’s going to happen to my family here? What would happen to my family in another city that is unaware of what’s happening.”

Hadassa Barros; Brazilian immigrant living in Alabama

Barros said that by declaring themselves as sanctuaries, these churches are doing the work of God.

“I think it’s beautiful,” she said. “It’s what the church came from, it came to help people.”

Congregations like the Pilgrim Church are one of the churches that have promised to protect immigrants.

“We know that our building is a sanctuary. It’s a place of safety. What that means is, if we need house people, if we need to provide services to people that are vulnerable, we will do that,” said Paul Ekness-Tucker, senior pastor at Pilgrim Church.

Ekness-Tucker said places of worship have the legal authority to turn away ICE agents.

“Unless there is a warrant signed by a judge, law enforcement cannot enter a place of worship,” he said.

Here is a list of religious leaders and their respective churches who have signed a petition offering sanctuary:


  • Rev. Dr. Dave Barnhart
  • Saint Junia United Methodist Church
  • Rev. Majadi Baruti
  • Udja Temple
  • Rev. Taylor Bell
  • Baptist Church of the Covenant
  • Rev. Ramone Billingsley
  • The Theological Collective
  • Shastri Janet Bronstein
  • Birmingham Shambhala Meditation Center
  • Rev. Adam Burns
  • Church of the Reconciler, UMC
  • Rev. Valerie Burton
  • Baptist Church of the Covenant
  • Pastor Kurt Clark
  • Sardis Missionary Baptist Church
  • Rev. Julie Conrady
  • Unitarian Universalist Church of Birmingham
  • Jim Douglass
  • Birmingham Catholic Worker
  • Shelley Douglass
  • Birmingham Catholic Worker
  • Rev. Doreen Duley
  • United Methodist Church
  • Rev. Tom Duley
  • United Methodist Church
  • Rev. Paul Eknes-Tucker
  • Pilgrim United Church of Christ
  • Rev. Joe Elmore
  • United Methodist Church
  • Rev. J.R. Finney
  • Covenant Community Church, UCC
  • Rev. Carolyn Foster
  • St. Mark’s Episcopal Church
  • Rev. Joe Genau
  • Edgewood Presbyterian Church
  • Rev. Cat Goodrich
  • First Presbyterian Church of Birmingham
  • Rev. Sonya Gravlee
  • United Church of Christ
  • Pastor Isaac Guazo
  • Iglesia Metodista de México
  • Rev. Dr. Samuel Hamilton-Poore
  • Presbyterian Church USA
  • Rev. Terry Hamilton-Poore
  • First Presbyterian Church of Birmingham
  • Rev. Caitlin Harper
  • Community Church Without Walls, UMC
  • Rev. Garrett Harper
  • Community Church Without Walls, UMC
  • Pastor Sally Harris
  • Grace Lutheran Church, ELCA
  • Rev. Ron Higey
  • Birmingham International Church
  • Rev. Dr. R. Lawton Higgs, Sr.
  • United Methodist Church
  • Rev. Kelley Hudlow
  • The Episcopal Church
  • Rev. Paula Champion Jones
  • United Methodist Church
  • Rev. Dr. Kip Laxson
  • Asbury United Methodist Church
  • Pastor Eva Melton
  • The Firm Foundation Church
  • Pastor Adam Mixon
  • Zion Spring Baptist Church
  • Rev. Dollie Howell Pankey
  • Christian Methodist Episcopal Church
  • Rev. Emily Freeman Penfield
  • Woodlawn United Methodist Church
  • Rev. Charles Perry
  • Magic City Spiritual Community
  • Rev. Katie Nakamura Rengers
  • The Abbey, Episcopal
  • Rev. Jennifer Sanders
  • Beloved Community Church, UCC
  • Ashfaq Taufique
  • Birmingham Islamic Society
  • Nancy Whitt, Clerk
  • Birmingham Friends Meeting
  • Rev. R.G. Wilson-Lyons
  • First United Methodist Church of Birmingham
  • Rev. Angie Wright
  • United Church of Christ

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