Castro, Markey and Colleagues Urge President Biden to Protect Immigrants in Sanctuary Churches

Joaquin Castro Congressman for the 20th District of Texas

For immediate release:
January 26th, 2020

Alex Sarabia – – 202-760-0802

WASHINGTON — Today, Representative Joaquin Castro of Texas and Senator Edward Markey of Massachusetts, along with Senator Elizabeth Warren and over two-dozen House members, sent a letter to President Biden urging swift action to grant relief and protections to immigrant families living in sanctuary churches across the nation. For decades, immigrants have been sheltered and supported by communities of faith as a last resort to avoid deportation. Federal immigration enforcement has a longstanding policy against carrying out arrests in houses of worship. The number of immigrant families living in sanctuary in a house of worship increased dramatically under the Trump administration, and today at least 40 immigrant families currently living in sanctuary churches across the United States. This letter asks President Biden to use the power of the presidency to defend these most vulnerable of immigrants, including by granting stays of removal, lifting deportation orders, and signing private bills of relief for any immigrant family living in sanctuary.

“Across our nation, communities of faith have hosted immigrant families in houses of worship to protect them from deportation and prevent family separations,” said Representative Castro. “With the Biden-Harris administration, these vulnerable families now have a real opportunity for relief and may be able to leave the walls of their sanctuaries for the first time in years. We respectfully urge President Biden to show compassion and mercy to these families, and honor both America’s tradition as a nation of immigrants as well as the advocacy of faith communities.”

“Our houses of worship must also be houses of hope for everyone who finds refuge in them. I am proud to stand in solidarity with the five individuals in Massachusetts, and nearly 40 across our country, who are currently seeking refuge in sanctuary churches. It is long past time to provide dignified and lasting protections to these individuals and families,” said Senator Markey. “I am hopeful that President Biden will help safely open the doors of our sanctuary churches and open the pathway to citizenship for these brave individuals.”

Additional co-signers include: Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representatives James P. McGovern, Joyce Beatty, Barbara Lee, Veronica Escobar, Jan Schakowsky, Ayanna Pressley, Nydia M. Velázquez, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Dwight Evans, Alcee L. Hastings, Lori Trahan, Sheila Jackson Lee, Lloyd Doggett, Sylvia R. Garcia, Mary Gay Scanlon, Mark Pocan, Tony Cárdenas, Albio Sires, Grace F. Napolitano, Ilhan Omar, Raul Grijalva, Debbie Dingell, Joe Neguse, Cori Bush, Ruben Gallego, Brendan F. Boyle, and Rashida Tlaib.

You can read the full letter here and below:

Dear President Biden:

We write to express our support for sanctuary families currently living in houses of worship around the United States. Today there are 40 people living in sanctuary, taking refuge in houses of worship as their only option to be safe from deportation and to keep their families intact. The Obama administration granted many of these people stays of removal, but over the last four years they have been forced into sanctuary as the Trump administration has worked incessantly to deport them or send them to detention centers.

Additionally, throughout the past four years, those in sanctuary have faced targeted retaliation from DHS, including severe fines ranging from $200,000 to almost $500,000; U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE) field offices targeting them; and continuous surveillance. We ask you to ensure that your immigration policies are crafted with dignity and respect towards those who live in sanctuary, and that you commit to the following remedial steps:

      1. Directing ICE, by February 12, 2021, to exercise prosecutorial discretion to grant a stay of removal to each person living in sanctuary;
      2. within the first 100 days of your presidency, lifting the deportation orders against all people living in sanctuary; and
      3. signing into law all private bills on behalf of people living in sanctuary that Congress sends to your desk.

Those in sanctuary have suffered enough. Your Administration’s actions can bring them the relief they need and deserve.

Immigrants in sanctuary, along with the faith communities that support them, have been working hard to change our broken immigration system for many years. Those in sanctuary have worked tirelessly with us as Members of Congress, and have sought to meet with your transition team, to highlight the need for immigration reform to include immigrants facing unjust deportation orders. Now is the time to support and honor the brave fight and leadership of people living in sanctuary and their commitment to resist the retaliatory actions of the Trump administration. We look forward to working with you to ensure that immigrants’ rights in the United States are protected.