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Downtown Phoenix Church Declares Itself A Sanctuary Church

James Pennington
(Photo by Lauren Gilger - KJZZ)
The Rev. James Pennington and his dog, Jackson, inside the historic First Congregational United Church of Christ in downtown Phoenix.

And as tensions rise around possibility of building a border wall, communities across the state are responding to the other part of those executive orders issued by President Trump this week.

Trump’s order also came down on so-called sanctuary cities, cities that bill themselves as safe places for undocumented immigrants.

And here in the Valley, one church is also coming forward and declaring itself a sanctuary church. The Show’s Lauren Gilger visited that church Thursday, as it was preparing to hold a vigil for immigrant families.

So, what exactly does it mean to be a sanctuary church?

It means that the church is opening its doors to people are who are being threatened with deportation, especially families. There are a few churches in the state that are sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants, and they’ve actually housed them in their buildings, where immigration officers usually won’t go to make an arrest.

On Thursday, James Pennington, pastor of the First Congregational United Church of Christ in downtown Phoenix, talked about this. He said they’ve been considering speaking out about the president’s positions on immigration, but, after Trump's executive orders this week, they felt it was time.

On Thursday night, the church held a vigil for immigrant families and announced that it was opening its doors to become a sanctuary church.

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Lauren Gilger, host of KJZZ's The Show, is an award-winning journalist whose work has impacted communities large and small, exposing injustices and giving a voice to the voiceless and marginalized.