Arizona churches offer refuge for Central Americans facing deportation

Churches across Arizona have united to provide sanctuary for migrants from central America facing deportation.

Hundreds of mostly Central American migrant children were held at a facility in Arizona, June 2014.Reuters

The effort comes after the Department of Homeland Security launched a renewed endeavour to deport adults and children who entered America illegally and stayed after they had been ordered to leave by a judge, according to The Arizona Republic.

121 adults were taken into custody over the weekend in Georgia, Texas and North Carolina.

Although none of the 121 were from Arizona, several churches in the state have or are considering plans to offer sanctuary for Central Americans facing deportation.

"We're seeing a real united front in the faith community that these raids are immoral, that we should not be targeting people who have fled violecne, who will be sent back to perhaps a violent situation that could be fatal," said Rev Noel Anderson, national grass-roots coordinator for Church World Service, an interfaith coalition.

One of the churches considering opening its doors is Shadow Rock United Church of Christ in Phoenix, which previously offered sanctuary to Guatamalan Eleazar Misheal Perez Cabrera for 110 days after a judge issued a deportation order.

"Migration is a natural human phenomenon that when people are hungry they move where the food is, when they are thirsty, they move where the water is and where there is violence, they move away from the violence," said Rev Ken Heintzelman, the head pastor of Shadow Rock.

"What we have done with our laws is we have criminalized a natural human phenomenon, and that is wrong. That's immoral."

He added that his congregation felt a moral obligation to protect the Central Americans fleeing violence, particularly as the United States has added to the conditions causing families to migrate. He said: "We have made life intolerable for people who want to live peaceful family lives and we don't take any responsibility for that."

The Department for Home Security Secretary, Jeh Johnson, said that the operation launched over the weekend "should come as no surprise" and that he stood by his decision.

"I have said publicly for months that individuals who constitute enforcement priorities, including families and unaccompanied children, will be removed."