Springfield church taking steps to become sanctuary for undocumented immigrants

Homeland Security considers places of worship sensitive locations

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – A Springfield church is in the process of becoming a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants.

South Congregational Church in Springfield has been taking steps to become a sanctuary, but Mayor Domenic Sarno is taking steps to stop that from happening.

Reverend Tom Gerstenlauer said South Congregational Church in Springfield has been moving forward to become a sanctuary, not as a political statement, but in keeping with their faith values.

Sarno against multi-church effort to provide sanctuary for undocumented

“We’re a faith based organization, we operate out of our faith values,” Rev. Gerstenlauer told 22News. “That doesn’t mean we disregard social values, but they don’t always match up neatly.”

Gerstenlauer said the church will create reasonable controls for a level of safety and security. He said they could begin offering sanctuary to undocumented immigrants as early as the end of the month.

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said he has already contacted city departments to see what steps they can take to stop the church from becoming a sanctuary.

The church said the department of Homeland Security considers places of worship sensitive locations, making Homeland Security less likely to go there seeking individuals for deportation.

“If it’s a church or a house of worship or any other place sensitive, if they are harboring, continue to harbor illegal activities or criminal type activities, there’s no sensitivity there,” Mayor Sarno said.

Sarno said he supports legal immigration, but not creating sanctuary for illegal immigrants.

The church said in order to provide sanctuary and not be harboring individuals, they must make a public announcement whenever they do accept individuals seeking sanctuary.