The First Congregational Church of Ithaca offers sanctuary to immigrants seeking asylum
ITHACA, N.Y. (WENY) -- As the migrant crisis unfolds across the country, one local church is taking in a family of asylum seekers, giving them sanctuary. The First Congregational Church of Ithaca held a press conference Wednesday night to introduce the sanctuary guests, who are going through the legal channels to gain asylum in the United States. Without the sanctuary of the church, the family would be at risk of deportation.
“Edgar, and Jenny, and las chicas, also have to be in a safe space. They're not coming to improve their life, they're coming because they felt forced to leave their reality. And I think that's really important,” said a representative from the church.
The First Congregational Church of Ithaca, or the FCCI, has an apartment on site, and the asylum seekers receive material, interpersonal and spiritual support while in the care of the FCCI. The press conference tonight was to introduce the guests publicly to avoid any legal implications.
“They found it through our network. So, we have several people in the community and organizations in the community that keep track of the immigrant community, and then they know that we are a sanctuary space, so if a situation arises where it looks like it might work, our network activates itself and we get notified,” said David Kaden, Reverend Doctor at FCCI.
The church says people they help with sanctuary who have not been charged with any serious legal offenses, and are at risk of deportation. FCCI said they will offer sanctuary to those who meet the criteria, and they offer protection until all legal avenues for asylum have been exhausted.
The family staying at the church expressed their appreciation for the help of the church in a difficult time.
“I feel so safe, and so secure here, and I don't know how to repay the generosity that you are sharing with us. But I feel so comfortable and so safe with my family,” said Edgar Escarrathe, with the help of a translator. Edgar Escarrathe, Jenny Auqio, and their two daughters are seeking asylum at FCCI.
The FCCI says the have the support of several other religious organizations, such as First Baptist Church of Ithaca, St. Catherine of Siena Church, First Unitarian Society of Ithaca, Living Hope Fellowship, Congregation Tikkun v’Or, the Tompkins County Immigrant Rights Coalition, and the Peace & Social Justice Committee of the Ithaca Quaker Meeting. Church leaders say they are warmed by community support for the asylum seekers.
The church says they are accepting volunteers and donations to help with the sanctuary efforts. More information can be found on their website, here.