Elkhart church wants to give hope through sanctuary for immigrants facing deportation

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An Elkhart church says it's opening its doors to those facing immigration.

The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Church says their congregation spoke out with a resounding 'yes' when their reverend asked if they should become a sanctuary church.

They say it means giving immigrants a place that feels like home during, what they say, is one of the scariest moments immigrants could face. People who could be moments away from having to leave family, friends, and communities they love.

This church says they want to try and help them keep all of those things.

There's a little house on Garden Street called 'The Children's House.' It's meant to be a place for Sunday school students, but the children the church says they're hoping the house holds in the future are not literal children, but children of God.

"We could host a family, or we could probably host two adult individuals," The Reverend Amy DeBeck said. "But probably no more than that."

The thing about the people the church is hosting, is that they will have been given a deportation order. But their lawyers think they still have a chance at not being deported.

"There's a good chance that they would have legal way to stay in this country," Elkhart-goshen Sanctuary Coalition Coordinator Julia Schmidt said. "They would then enter into a church building while the lawyer works on their case."

To get into the sanctuary, the Immigrant's attorney would call the church and let them know there was a chance their client could be sticking around, but they need more time in the United States. Then the Elkhart-Goshen Sanctuary Coalition would discuss with the church and congregation if it was a good case to take. If it is, then they would be welcomed into the house on the church's property.

ICE officials are legally able to just walk up to the house and detain anybody with an immigration order living inside. But that's not likely to happen because the house is actually on the property of the church, which is considered a sacred and safe place. The same goes for schools and hospitals.

"That would look very bad to enter by force into a church," Schmidt said. "There has never been ICE officers who have entered a sanctuary or a church."

So once they take sanctuary inside of a church, that's it. They can either stay inside 24/7 or they can step outside and risk being detained and deported.

"They're giving up a lot," DeBeck said. "They're letting themselves be known as someone who is being held by their community."

While there haven't been any sanctuary cases in Indiana, the church and the coalition say they're just trying to be ready for people who have their eyes on the church just in case.

"They'll be like 'We heard there's a church in Elkhart who is willing to host.'" Schmidt said. "And it's amazing that that is what gives them hope. That there are people out there who are willing to help."

Right now, the Elkhart-Goshen Sanctuary Coalition says there are 31 sanctuary cases across the United States and these things can go on for years. Since that's the case, the church and coalitions say they have to be prepared to host someone for the rest of their life if it comes down to it.