Trump’s Immigration Policies Are Keeping Some Hispanics Away from Church for Fear of Being Arrested on Way to Sunday Services

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America’s Hispanic churches feel the impact of President Donald Trump’s immigration initiatives in their pews each week.

They’ve seen a drop in attendance as some immigrants stay home rather than risk getting arrested on the way to Sunday services. Pastors find themselves preaching about fear to mixed-status Latino families who are already preparing for the worst: explaining to their kids what happens if Mom or Dad have to leave and packing up their belongings to stay with relatives if they get detained.

“Pastorear en Tiempos de Trump es más difícil y duro de lo que imaginé. Orando, sirviendo, y trabajando por nuestras familias,” tweeted Felix Cabrera, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Central in Oklahoma City and a leader of the Hispanic Baptist Pastors Alliance (HBPA). (“Pastoring in the time of Trump is more difficult and harder than I could have imagined. Praying, serving, and working for our families.”)

Trump’s immigration plan does away with earlier exemptions for residents here illegally, putting more undocumented workers up for arrest, detention, and deportation, the Department of Homeland Security announced last month.

In the wake of the new policy, an “unprecedented level of fear” rose among majority-immigrant congregations, according to Matthew Soerens, director of church mobilization for World Relief.

“These new guidelines create anxiety and concerns about the future of the members of our church and their families,” the HBPA, a coalition of Hispanic Southern Baptist pastors, stated this month. “As an alliance of churches, we are doing our part guiding our members through this challenging time by helping them understand their citizenship is in heaven.”

Half of all Latino Christians living in the United States are worried that either they or someone close to them will be deported, the Pew Research Center found. This includes 1 in 3 of those born in the US (including Puerto Rico).

Among Latino Christians, the concerns are highest among green card holders (71% worry about deportation) and undocumented immigrants (68% worry). Even among Hispanic Christians who were born outside of America but have become US citizens, more than half (55%) fear deportation for themselves or someone close to them.

World Relief and the churches it works with “are fielding many, many inquiries from distressed immigrants who have seen news reports about changing immigration enforcement priorities and of deportations of undocumented people with no criminal convictions,” said Soerens. “Many are very afraid for themselves and their children.”

A majority of Hispanic Christians who don’t hold US citizenship are concerned about their place in Trump’s America, including 51 percent of green card holders and 57 percent of undocumented immigrants, according to Pew.

Meanwhile, 38 percent of Latino Christians born in the US (including Puerto Rico) share this concern. So do 31 percent of those born outside the US but who are now citizens.

“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,” said Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC) and one of Trump’s evangelical advisers. He said that the new president has not kept his promise to prioritize family unity and confine deportation to violent criminals.

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SOURCE: Christianity Today
Kate Shellnutt