Evading ICE: Some undocumented immigrants are claiming sanctuary in local churches

In order to avoid deportation, some undocumented immigrants in the United States have claimed sanctuary in local churches. As of August, there were four such cases in Connecticut. I sat down to talk with one of them.

Claiming sanctuary is a legal gray area. While it is not recognized by federal law, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents are mostly ordered to stay away from sensitive locations. The individual I spoke with has not set foot outside of the church in over a year out of fear for what could happen.

Extended interview with Sujitno Sajuti can be found here:


#1: “War on ICE: Church Sanctuaries Used as Sanctuaries! – The Opposition w/ Jordan Klepper.” YouTube, The Opposition w/ Jordan Klepper, 5 June 2018, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lTFUt4pEN38.

#2: Engber, Daniel. “Can Criminals Hide in Churches?” Slate Magazine, Slate, 16 Aug. 2006, slate.com/news-and-politics/2006/08/can-criminals-hide-in-churches.html.

#3: “Sanctuary Congregations and Harboring FAQ.” American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU, 13 Apr. 2017, http://www.aclu.org/other/sanctuary-congregations-and-harboring-faq.

#4: Schallhorn, Kaitlyn. “What’s a Sanctuary Church? A Look at the Policy and Its Legality in US.” Fox News, FOX News Network, 17 July 2018, http://www.foxnews.com/politics/whats-a-sanctuary-church-a-look-at-the-policy-and-its-legality-in-us.

#5: Chichester, Ryan. “Undocumented Immigrant Has Spent One Year as Refugee in Meriden Church.” MyRecordJournal.com, 9 Oct. 2018, http://www.myrecordjournal.com/News/Meriden/Meriden-News/Sujitno-Sajuti-one-year-in-Meriden-sanctuary.html.

#6: Westfall, Sammy. “Nelson Pinos, A Life in Sanctuary.” Yale Daily News, 12 Oct. 2018, yaledailynews.com/blog/2018/10/12/nelson-pinos-a-life-in-sanctuary/.

#7: “Pakistani Couple Living in Old Lyme Church Sanctuary Return Home to New Britain.” LymeLine, 17 Oct. 2018, lymeline.com/2018/10/pakistani-couple-living-in-old-lyme-church-sanctuary-to-return-home-to-new-britain/.

#8: Ratliff, Jamie. “Supporters of Father Facing Deportation Rally for Family to Reunite for Holidays.” NBC Connecticut, NBC Connecticut, 14 Nov. 2018, http://www.nbcconnecticut.com/news/local/Supporters-of-Father-Facing-Deportation-Rally-for-Family-to-Reunite-for-Holidays-500421832.html.

#9: Sajuti, Sujitno. In-person interview. 2 Oct. 2018.

#10: “FAQ on Sensitive Locations and Courthouse Arrests.” U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, 25 Sept. 2018, http://www.ice.gov/ero/enforcement/sensitive-loc.

#11: NewsHour, PBS. “Watch Donald Trump Announce His Candidacy for U.S. President.” YouTube, YouTube, 16 June 2015, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SpMJx0-HyOM.

#12: “8 Prototypes for Trump’s Border Wall.” YouTube, CNN, 26 Oct. 2017, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G5EIkVF6XyY.

#13: Eggers, Dave. “No One Is Safer. No One Is Served.” The New Yorker, The New Yorker, 24 Aug. 2018, http://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/no-one-is-safer-no-one-is-served.

#14: “New Britian [sic] Family Seeking Sanctuary from Deporatation [sic] in Old Lyme Church.” YouTube, WTNH News8, 22 Mar. 2018, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GTaNVfooDoI.

#15: “ICE RAIDS CALI.” YouTube, CNN, 21 July 2016, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JWGXSsBGfog.

#16: “Video of Woman’s Immigration Arrest Sparks Outcry.” YouTube, CBS Evening News, 9 Mar. 2018, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g4BHUQ1_ky8.

#17: “Immigration Raid – 2007-08-08.” YouTube, Orange County Register, 2 July 2015, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CkxYhDxJdTU.

#18: “Sean Hannity Speaks At A Trump Rally On The Eve Of The Midterm Elections | TIME.” YouTube, TIME, 6 Nov. 2018, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FzskmXBGMz8.

#19: “South American Illegal Immigrants Arrested in Raid.” YouTube, Associated Press, 24 July 2015, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=41Do7fiTNos.

#20: Footage created using Google Earth Pro for MacOS.

#21: Outro Song: “Fill Me In” by Atwaters featuring Yeon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UW0iKqFMoxo Used with artist’s consent. The contents and views of this video may not necessarily be shared with the artist.