RETRO REPORT The Story Behind the News
Donate

Trump and the Battle over Sanctuary

As deportations begin to rise under President Trump, churches and cities are declaring themselves sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants. It’s the latest chapter of a movement with a long history.

Follow Retro Report

Trump and the Battle over Sanctuary

Produced by Scott Michels
Original Release
March 6, 2017

As deportations begin to rise under President Trump, churches and cities are declaring themselves sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants. It’s the latest chapter of a movement with a long history.

As the Trump administration begins to aggressively enforce the nation’s immigration laws, churches and cities across the country are declaring themselves “sanctuaries” – and pledging to protect undocumented immigrants from deportation. But it’s just the latest resurgence of a movement that started more than 30 years ago, when hundreds of churches defied the government to protect undocumented immigrants from Central America.

In the early 1980s, thousands of Central American refugees, fleeing from civil wars and political violence, started coming across the U.S.-Mexico border.  Many of them made it to Tucson, where a Presbyterian minister named John Fife began to help them apply for political asylum.  But when Fife realized that the U.S. government routinely denied the migrants’ asylum claims, he helped start a modern day underground railroad: he and small group of church workers and other allies smuggled migrants across the border and gave them “sanctuary” in churches.  Soon, hundreds of churches and synagogues joined him in what became a nationwide sanctuary movement.  The movement led to a national confrontation between religious beliefs and the law – a confrontation that continues to play out today.

Forever Prison
Grilling Gorsuch: Why He Won’t Answer