Group Started to Give Sanctuary to Illegal Immigrants

AP, May 25, 2008

A group of faith-driven activists is trying to organize a network to help illegal immigrants who fear new local immigration-related laws and massive raids.

The advocates—all Catholic—hope to provide places to stay, food and health care for immigrants. They have a few families who have volunteered to host immigrants, but ultimately want to open a shelter.

If the project is successful, immigrants seeking sanctuary would simply need to ask for “Romo.”

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“We are the new Sanctuary Movement in San Antonio,” said group member Victor Ruiz, 63, who works for the immigration division of Catholic Charities. “If immigrants need help, we will do all we can to help them out.”

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Similarly, New Sanctuary Movement coalitions have formed nationwide to offer refuge to parents whose pending deportations would split them from their U.S.-born children.

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Authorities warn that while they support people acting on political and religious convictions, they can’t ignore the breaking of immigration laws against transporting or harboring unauthorized immigrants.

“I’d caution them that good intentions could make them criminally liable,” said Jerry Robinette, director of investigations for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in San Antonio. “They have to make the decision whether they want to violate the law or not.”

Even Archbishop Jose Gomez, who leads the Archdiocese of San Antonio, questioned the Romo group’s stance, saying sanctuary for immigrants historically has been a political statement and not only religious charity.

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