If Donald Trump keeps all his campaign promises, thousands of churchescould disappear.
That’s according to Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, who heads the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, an evangelical group with more than 40,000 affiliated congregations.
“The very viability of our churches—these are our church members,” he said. “You’re talking about shutting down churches. If you would ever deport 11, 12 million people, you would shut down so many Latino churches. And I mean so many in thousands, without any hyperbole.”
Advent—the four weeks before Christmas Day, when Christianstraditionally light Advent candles in church and prepare to celebrate Christ’s birth—is supposed to be a season of hope, peace, and joyful anticipation. But for many Hispanic Christians, Advent this year comes with fear and deep uncertainty. That’s because less than a month after celebrating the birth of Jesus, a new man will come into their lives: Donald Trump. For churches and other faith communities with undocumented members, mass deportations mean empty pews and parentless kids.
It isn’t clear how many people Trump will deport and whether he will direct Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to target people who haven’t committed serious crimes. We just don’t know. So churches that minister to people without papers will spend this Christmas season hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.
And for many of these congregations, the specter of mass deportation isn’t theoretical. Rodriguez is the senior pastor of the New Season Christian Worship Center in Sacramento, California, and said his congregation includes many undocumented members. Though the church doesn’t keep tabs of its members’ legal status, on some Sundays it’s particularly noticeable. During Obama’s first term, Rodriguez said, he would sometimes notice dozens of members coming to church late, and all at once, on certain Sunday mornings.
“The ICE people would come in and sweep an entire neighborhood,” Rodriguez said, “so they would call each other and text each other and say, Don’t go out! Don’t go out!”
After the raids finished, people headed to church.
“We live that,” Rodriguez said.
Read more at Churches Prepare to Shelter Immigrants From Trump.