Sanctuary Church: Newberry church opens their doors to “carefully chosen” undocumented immigrants


COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO)– A Newberry Church is the first in South Carolina to claim they are a sanctuary church for immigrants with deportation orders. A Sanctuary Church means that they will allow undocumented immigrants who have deportation orders– meaning they are already in the system going through the legal process, to take refuge at the church, but the logistics of exactly how this will work is still quite foggy.  

On a quiet side of Newberry County, the congregation of 15 voted to make Clayton Memorial Unitarian Universalist Church a safe haven for a few ‘carefully chosen’ undocumented immigrants ordered to be deported.

“We don’t know who’s going to be referred to us and how that… and how that process is all going to work yet. That’s part of the work in process,” Sam Stone said, a church board member.

Their fellowship hall will be transformed into a living space for one to 2 people. The immigrant would be unable to leave the sanctuary church without running the risk of being arrested, but the church will provide the space, meals, and even help with immigration attorneys to help get the deportation orders overturned.

“We’re not doing it because it’s political, because it’s noteworthy, because it’s controversial. We’re doing it because we think it’s the right thing to do and we’re able to do it,” Marsha DeRosier said, the church’s treasurer.

Sheriff Lee Foster says a sanctuary church is very different from a sanctuary city. The county and the city does not support harboring undocumented immigrants, but Local law enforcement will be unable to act if an undocumented immigrant does take refuge in the church since that is under federal jurisdiction..

“But it still does not make it legal. And just because they feel like they have sympathy for what people are going through, does not make it legal and for them to be able to circumvent the laws of this country,” Foster said.

Sheriff Foster said it is unlikely ICE will take actions against the church. According to church leaders, ICE generally avoids arrests in sensitive locations, like a church, hospital, or educational institution.

“I understand that our forefathers broke laws, English laws to be able to found this country. The very foundation of this country because they broke laws,” Ricardo Castillo said. 

This is the first sanctuary church in South Carolina, but there are many across the country. According to Church World Services, the number of sanctuary churches have doubled to 800 since President Trump has taken office.


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