Undocumented immigrants seek sanctuary churches

More than 6,000 people have signed up to provide sanctuary around the country

(CNN) – Undocumented immigrants across the United States living in fear as Immigration and customs enforcement officers have stepped up their raids. Nearly 700 people have been arrested. For those who are fearing deportation, the only safe place for them could be their churches.

This church congregation in Chicago is made up of nearly all undocumented immigrants and refugees.

The renewed panic is fueled by the story of Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos, an Arizona woman with two U.S. citizen children and no violent criminal background who was deported after a routine check-in with ice.

Multiple people have to do exactly that in the coming days. Including a mother who only wanted to be identified as Jessica. A translator for Jessica said, “She says that since Guadalupe was deported in Arizona, she can’t sleep she can’t have peace because she’s afraid that she’ll be next.”

Like Guadalupe, Jessica’s immediate family is in the U.S. legally. Her one run-in with the law: using a fake visa in the 90’s. Because of that crime? She’s been required to check-in with ice for more than a decade now. Her appointment in three weeks is especially stressful.

Jessica translator said, “She says that her message for President Trump is that she is not a criminal, she is not a terrorist and that she doesn’t want her family to be separated.”

Pastor Emma Lozano says her church is a sanctuary for people like Jessica. This weekend alone she says she received multiple calls from her congregation asking her to save a space for them in the church, just in case immigration knocks on their front door. “I feel like they are my children. They are coming after my children and it’s been extremely difficult and I want to stand up for them and I want to be able to defend them.”

The fear is spreading across the country. More than 6,000 people have signed up to provide sanctuary around the country, including 800 churches, that number doubled from 400 since Donald Trump became president, according to leaders of the sanctuary church movement.

However, Pastor Lozano thinks, that’s not enough. “We need a lot of people that can stand up I’m going to do what I can do for them, I’m only one pastor”

She understands why some people are hesitant to provide sanctuary to the undocumented. Her church has been tagged with hate speech at least five times in 10 months. To gain peace of mind, an armed guard now stands at the foot of her church.

As for Jessica, she doesn’t plan to take refuge inside the church. “She says that she would rather follow the law, check in with ice.”

Even if that means getting deported.