Wyoming church to become sanctuary amidst ICE arrests

WYOMING, Mich. -- A church in Wyoming will become one of the first in West Michigan to be a sanctuary for people who are undocumented, as ICE raids continue to spark arrests nationwide.

"I'm a dreamer," said Reverend Justo Gonzalez II, Southwest Area Minister for United Church of Christ. "And that’s my role as a visionary, is to help people dream."

With the help of the community, Rev. Gonzalez resurrected Ministerios Rios De Agua Viva, United Church of Christ, on Havana Avenue SW in Wyoming. It was an abandoned building only a few months ago, but now holds service and is preparing to become a sanctuary.

"I know what my focus is, I know what I’m called to," said Rev. Gonzalez. "ICE has a job to do, they can do it any place other than within the four walls of this building."

Community members continue to donate their time, money and expertise: for instance, replacing the church's industrial kitchen's garbage disposal, and installing a shower. The upstairs' empty rooms are being transformed into living quarters and private family rooms for 20.

"Someone has to stand up," said Rev. Gonzalez, "We don’t care about your country of origin."

"We’re going to provide a safe and sacred space that if you feel threatened or harassed by ICE, or fearful of being out in the community, that you know there is light in the midst of our community and that we’re shining it."

Despite ICE arresting more people last year than the previous three years combined, Rev. Gonzalez says any work to arrest and detain stops at the doors of this church.

"What I have committed to publicly and will state publicly anywhere is ICE is not coming in my building," said Rev. Gonzalez.

"They can break down a door if they choose to, we’re not opening it. They can tear down a door if they want to, we’ll film them, but this is holy and sacred ground. I, and several of my congregation, are willing to put our lives and our bodies on the line, because it’s the right thing to do, and it’s the just thing to do."

Currently, Homeland Security continues to follow its Sensitive Locations Policy, meaning ICE generally avoids enforcement at places identified as sensitive locations, including: places of worship, schools, healthcare facilities and public rallies.

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6 comments

  • Old Bob

    When churches start to think they are above the law it’s time we start charging the pastor and it’s board of directors with contempt of court. If someone is here illegally they have broken the law. If I brake the law I expect to suffer the consequences. If someone came here illegally they have broken the law and should suffer the consequences. Deport them, send them home.

    • ANTI-OLD BOB

      Don’t make me laugh Bobby😂 Do you get a ticket every time you go over the speed limit or get a DUI for driving with alcohol in your blood? A lot of people would be in trouble daily.YOUR ARGUMENT IS IRRELEVANT CHUMP! now this might not be the right thing to do, but you have no substance in your statement 😂

      • Clucko

        Your response to OLD BOB is what’s irrelevant here. I’m sure that if he was caught speeding or DUI he’d pay the consequences because he knows the law. By the same token, the Church knows it’s violating the law and ought to be prepared to pay the price if law enforcement decides to act. By the way, for what it’s worth, your name calling doesn’t exactly make people want to take you seriously.

  • jerry

    what a great thing to do keep people who are in the usa in illegally a place to live how about rape murders,drunk drivers are they all welcome to in any other country the police would come in and drag them or there bodys out is the church zoned for people to live there if not then the city inspectors better do there job or people can live in any building any place

  • paul

    who all wants to live in a counrtry of lawlessness? The reverend thinks he should help the lawbreakers of this land.. then uphold the laws of our creator…..huh..