Religious leaders and activist organizations across the United States have vowed to defend undocumented immigrants against President Donald Trump's immigration actions, including new guidelines for the Department of Homeland Security to dramatically increase immigrant detention center populations and deportation rates, no matter the cost.
One group in California has already gotten to work, purchasing properties throughout Los Angeles to house hundreds, potentially thousands of immigrants at risk of being deported under Trump. The underground network is called the Rapid Response Team, consisting of several leaders from various religions determined to provide safe spaces for immigrant families to live over the next four years.
A demonstrator holding a sign to protest against President Donald Trump's executive order banning refugees and immigrants from seven primarily Muslim countries from entering the United States during a rally in Philadelphia, Feb. 4, 2017. Photo: Reuters
Reverend Zach Hoover, the executive director of the Los Angeles religious affiliation LA Voice and a member of the Rapid Response Team, told CNN Friday his faith called on him to protect undocumented immigrants currently living in his community. Hoover said his team will defend immigrants with a focus on women and children, "so they can stay with their families, so they can be with their husbands."
"The God that I worship sent a person to earth in the name of Jesus who did not always get along with the authorities," Hoover said. "I feel really convicted that I answer to God at the end of the day. That's who I'm going to see when I die."
Trump's recent statements describing ongoing deportation efforts as a "military operation" have stirred controversy, as activist groups and local authorities along the border alike warn of increased distrust for police and law enforcement complying with his administration’s illegal immigration guidelines.
Meanwhile, conservative groups say the group’s mission is illegal, and members should face repercussions for committing crimes.
"Harboring is a felony," Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, told CNN about the Rapid Response Team’s efforts. "Regular folks hiding people in a basement face jail time because it is ultimately a smuggling conspiracy."
Despite fears of potential raids conducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Rapid Response Team is continuing to build onto homes for as many as three families to live together inside of at once, rushing to finish the network of buildings as federal agents step up operations.
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