Immigrant sanctuary providers bracing for new ICE Raids

The intersection of St. Johns and I-35 is one of several locations in Austin where you can find people looking for work. Not everyone there was an undocumented immigrant. One of those looking for work, told FOX 7  no one there Monday morning was worried because no one knew about the Sunday raid in Fort Worth.

"Naw, naw, not here, there's no problem over here,” said the man.

Things have changed in Austin since a big round up in February. A landscaper, who went by the first name of Jason,  told FOX 7 they've lost business because his co-workers sometimes fail to show up.

"They're just scared. They dont want to come out, they're really scared to leave their house, on some occasions, if they see the police in their apartment they dont want to come out,  like we're not coming out we dont want them to pull us over, run our names ... or call,” said Jason.

Immigration advocates have denounced the ICE raids, but acknowledge there has been an upside.

St. Andrews Presbyterian is part of a network of  Austin area churches providing sanctuary to undocumented immigrants. Organizers say since enforcement actions have ramped up, interest in their mission has also increased.

"A much bigger up-tick with the new administration,” said Rev. Babs Miller, a Minister at St. Andrews and a leader with the Austin Sanctuary Network.

Rev. Miller tells FOX 7 membership in the sanctuary organization has now grown to a little more than two dozen churches and civic groups.

"Sanctuary happens to be one of those things we are called upon to do, and that's regardless of our political leanings."

St. Andrews made headlines last year when the church provided sanctuary to Hilda Ramirez and her son Ivan. They won a deferred action judgment, but Rev. Miller says it expires in October.  The Ramirez family still lives in the church out of fear their new visa status will not be renewed and the government will once again try to deport them.

Rev. Miller says despite the extra interest in helping the sanctuary program, St. Andrews remains the only church providing living space. As a result,  the church may set up a tent city in a playground if a massive immigration sweep takes place.

"We know the raids are going to continue, we are pretty sure of that, we just don't know when, but we hear that we are going to have another one soon and we are trying to do everything we can to prepare for that,” said Rev. Miller.

For the sanctuary network it’s a situation that's similar to those who continue to gather at St. Johns,  a wait and see for who will show up.

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