New Hampshire Catholic Bishop Says Churches Shouldn't Shelter Illegal Immigrants

(Photo: REUTERS/U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement/Courtesy Charles Reed)U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers detain a suspect as they conduct a targeted enforcement operation in Los Angeles, California, U.S. on February 7, 2017. Picture taken on February 7, 2017.

A Roman Catholic bishop who oversees the diocese for the state of New Hampshire has stated that churches should not house people who entered the country illegally.

The Most Reverend Peter Libasci of the Diocese of Manchester sent a letter to clergy last Friday noting that congregations cannot allow undocumented immigrants to be housed within their churches to avoid being deported.

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(Photo: Diocese of Manchester)The Most Reverend Peter A. Libasci, bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester.

In the letter, which the Diocese provided The Christian Post, Bishop Libasci explained that there were two definitions for the term "sanctuary churches" being used.

"Some use this term and mean what I have described above – a welcoming community ready to offer immediate aid to anyone in need. In these works, of course, we will always be involved," wrote Libasci.

"But others use this term 'sanctuary' to refer to churches that will allow individuals in fear of deportation to live in the church."

The bishop went on to state that the latter definition, that of allowing unauthorized immigrants to live within a church, was problematic "because it creates a false hope to tell individuals living in fear that we can protect them from law enforcement actions."

"'Sanctuary' is not a designation recognized by law and provides no such legal protection," cautioned Libasci.

"Instead, immigration law imposes criminal penalties and fines on anyone who conceals, harbors, or shields from detection, in any place, an alien who has come to, entered, or remains in the United States in violation of the law."

Thomas Bebbington, spokesman for the Diocese, told CP that the letter came in response to a meeting with several priests who expressed concerns about increased immigration enforcement.

"As a result of those conversations, he realized that the term 'Sanctuary Church' meant different things to different people, and that he needed to give pastors some guidance as to how best to assist those who come to them looking for help," said Bebbington

"[He also wanted] to point out what kinds of activities would not be helpful — namely, allowing people to actually live in church buildings."

Soon after being sworn in as president, Donald Trump signed a series of executive orders regarding the status of refugees and immigration enforcement.

Last month, President Trump signed a revised version of an earlier executive order temporarily suspending immigration from multiple predominantly Muslim nations.

"Citizens from the affected countries — Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Syria and Libya — will be subjected to a 90-day ban on travel to the United States," reported NBC News in March.

"Iraq was previously listed among those nations, but it was removed from this latest iteration after reassurances from the Iraqi government of increased information sharing with the United States ..."

Several churches and faith groups have protested the federal measures, with some congregations declaring themselves areas of sanctuaries for any who may be deported.

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