DALLAS, Texas – As Washington works to tackle illegal immigration, one controversial aspect is so-called sanctuary cities, places which harbor illegal immigrants. The Trump administration has threatened to withhold funding from these cities. The increase in sanctuary cities across the country has made the illegal immigration debate even more bitter.
Illegal immigrants are shielded in 300 sanctuary jurisdictions in cities including Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Dallas and Miami.
Texas Cracks Down on Sanctuary Cities
Earlier this year, Texas went the other direction with its so-called "Show Me Your Papers" law.
The law prohibits any policy that limits immigration enforcement, allows authorities to question the immigration status of anyone they detain or arrest, and allows the state to fine cities and counties up to $25,000 a day for acting as sanctuary cities.
The Texas law is the first of its kind of the nation since President Trump issued an order to crack down on cities providing safe haven for undocumented immigrants.
The law, which was signed by Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott earlier this year, led to a massive protest in the Texas state capitol building, which included scuffles between lawmakers.
Churches Push Back Against Sanctuary Cities Law
Members of the faith community in the state, like Christ Foundry United Methodist Church, are struggling with it. The church is one of 60 United Methodist congregations committed to providing sanctuary for undocumented immigrants.
In an interview with CBN News, Pastor Owen Ross said, "Approximately 80% of our adults, I would say, are foreign- born and so many of them are undocumented."
Demonstrating Christian Love
He says the biblical mandate to care for foreigners motivated him to act and get his congregation involved in the movement. "There's no other contemporary political issue that's more frequently and consistently addressed in the bible than immigration; no other issue more frequently and consistently addressed than immigration. And God's word is consistent love, love, love." he said.
"And the actions that our country is taking is not demonstrating that love," he added.
Ross admits a sanctuary church does not protect immigrants from deportation.
"We have publicly said we will house you. We will receive you. It's not a place to hide you. It's quite the opposite. We will publicly say this family is living in our church and we are doing that because of the gospel of Jesus Christ, that teaches us to love our neighbors," said Ross.
Pastor Vince Gonzalez leads the Hispanic congregation of North Dallas Family Church in Carrollton. He said there has been a lot of paranoia and fear in his church over immigration issues.
"Lot of questioning and even within our congregation we've been seeing an increase of people very concerned," said Gonzalez.
Recent immigration proposals have led him to change the dynamics of his ministry..
Church Helps Members Apply for Legal Status
"We were not so much focused on community needs before but now we're actually dealing not with just food and shelter but documentation, counseling, prayer," he said.
The ministry also includes a referral program to help with applying for legal status.
"I feel if you go back and you make it right with the law that God's grace and God's mercy is always there. But if you continue to run, continue to run, continue to run, you'll be a fugitive all your life," he said.
Another View: 'Do What's Right for Americans'
Pastor Stephen Broden of Fair Park Bible Fellowship stands on the other side of the debate. He equates sanctuary cities with amnesty.
"Sanctuary cities violate the federal law, the federal immigration law," he explained. "And so what they're doing is making a safe haven by allowing illegals to come and hide in those cities without any punitive consequences."
The issue has also become personal for Broden, who said his sister-in-law was killed by an illegal immigrant about ten years ago.
"We've got to look at both sides of the equation and do what is right for Americans," he said.
He pointed out that the problem is not just limited to illegal immigrants from Mexico.
He said, "We're talking about OTM - 'Other Than Mexicans.' Arabs and terrorists who are coming across a porous border with malicious intention for our nation. So we gotta get a handle on this or we're going to be fighting terrorism in our streets."
In the meantime, Ross believes the number of sanctuary churches will grow to aid those who just want a better life in America.
"i anticipate that if we do start seeing more non-criminal deportations; non-criminal orders for deportations that more churches will adhere to the Lord's mandate and will open their doors and will allow persons into their churches," he said.
For now the sanctuary city law in Texas is on hold because of a federal judge's intervention. However, Governor Abbott has appealed and believes it will be upheld by the Supreme Court.