An evangelical pastor who prayed at Donald Trump's inauguration is offering a 'safe haven' for undocumented immigrants at his Sacramento church.
Sam Rodriguez Jr, who led prayers at Trump's January inauguration, has been vocal in his support and welcome of immigrants and those fearing deportation, as Time reports.
Rodriguez is the president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC), and leads the New Season Christian Worship Center. In January New Season church set up 30 cots in its building to provide safe shelter for anyone fearing the future following Donald Trump's executive order on federal deportation.
'The anxiety in Christian conservative, evangelical churches has grown exponentially, because many of our worshipers, many of the families we serve, many of the families in our pews, may very well lack the appropriate documentation, even though we have a don't ask don't tell policy,' Rodriguez said.
The safe haven programme is intended to provide protection and spiritual encouragement for those who are afraid. It also protects those afraid of domestic abuse. Harbouring undocumented immigrants does violate federal law, and the church says there is no plan for what to do if officials come demanding its immigrants. 'We are just there offering assistance, giving them a sense of hope, peace,' said Charlie Riviera, leader of the safe haven programme.
Rodriguez has been a keen advocate for refugees and vulnerable immigrants, often clashing with Trump on the issue. He stood against Trump's plan to deport 10 million undocumented immigrants and build a border wall with Mexico. He encouraged Trump to allow child immigrants (known as 'Dreamers') to be allowed to stay and find employment in America, and urged him not to separate families through deportation.
'We have every desire to work with President Trump in finding a solution to our immigration crisis, one that addresses his objectives and stops illegal immigration, and deports those involved in nefarious activity, but protects the Dreamers and the god-fearing, hardworking families that are here undocumented,' Rodriguez said.
He remains concerned that Trump will target all undocumented immigrants for deportation, rather than focusing on violent criminals.
Praying at Trump's inauguration, Rodriguez quoted Jesus' teaching in the beatitudes, in Matthew 5: 'God blesses those who are poor and realise their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs,' he said. 'God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted...God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied. God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy.'