When Even Churches Refuse to Obey the Law

This week, the Boston Globe published an article titled “Congregations in Mass. Preparing to Shelter Immigrants.” It describes efforts by local churches and synagogues to frustrate Trump administration efforts to enforce immigration law. According to a member of a prominent synagogue quoted in the story: “’We’re going to do what we do in a way that really has a chance of making it a public moral issue that cannot be dismissed…. Religious institutions are in a good position to do that.’”

It’s not surprising that houses of worship would wish to provide assistance to the newly arrived. The Judeo-Christian tradition places great significance on charity. However, the title of the Globe’s piece is misleading. “Immigrant” is a legal term, defined in statute. It refers to a foreign national coming to the United States with the intention, and legal authorization, to reside here permanently.

However, the congregations in Massachusetts aren’t preparing to shelter immigrants, they’re planning to harbor illegal aliens.  Where, exactly, is the public moral issue with deporting non-citizens who have broken the law? The Globe fails to make that clear. But the religious leaders referenced in its article seem to imply that deporting anyone, for any reason, is wrong.

That is a problematic assertion. It absolves foreigners of all moral and legal responsibility for their actions. Those unlawfully present in the United States have made a conscious choice to disregard all of the relevant legal requirements. Americans call that lawbreaking and, until recently, most theologically inclined organizations tended to frown on such lawless behavior, as it tends to lead to sin.

It’s also an assertion that rests on a fundamentally flawed premise. How many times have we heard alien advocates saying, “It’s an injustice to deport that family. Sure they’re illegal but they’ve been here for 20 years.”? In other words, we should reward those lawbreakers who successfully avoid detection for a significant amount of time. But that’s an absurd contention. It’s not an accepted defense in any other area of law and clerical leaders would never accept it as an excuse for sin.

Finally, those who would shield lawbreakers in temples abuse the privileged place that religious institutions occupy in the American Constitutional framework. Under the First Amendment, religious organizations are free from most forms of government regulation. As such, American law enforcement considers houses of worship to be “sensitive areas.” While not prohibited from enforcing laws on consecrated ground, policing agencies take great care to fulfill their duties without disrupting spiritual ministries. Churches and synagogues serving as “shelters” for illegal aliens evading deportation are simply exploiting their special status to provide a veneer of legitimacy to an utterly spurious argument.

Charles Baudelaire once said that “The devil’s finest trick was persuading man that he didn’t exist.” But the open borders lobby may have trumped Lucifer. They seem to have persuaded churches and synagogues that breaking immigration law is a blameless sin of omission. And in the process, they have made the very institutions that should serve as moral pillars in our communities into advocates for lawlessness.


About Author


Matthew J. O’Brien joined the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in 2016. Matt is responsible for managing FAIR’s research activities. He also writes content for FAIR’s website and publications. Over the past twenty years he has held a wide variety of positions focusing on immigration issues, both in government and in the private sector. Immediately prior to joining FAIR Matt served as the Chief of the National Security Division (NSD) within the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate (FDNS) at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), where he was responsible for formulating and implementing procedures to protect the legal immigration system from terrorists, foreign intelligence operatives, and other national security threats. He has also held positions as the Chief of the FDNS Policy and Program Development Unit, as the Chief of the FDNS EB-5 Division, as Assistant Chief Counsel with U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement, as a Senior Advisor to the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman, and as a District Adjudications Officer with the legacy Immigration & Naturalization Service. In addition, Matt has extensive experience as a private bar attorney. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in French from the Johns Hopkins University and a Juris Doctor from the University of Maine School of Law.


  1. avatar

    The old saying is when you’re in a hole stop digging. The Democrats just added a couple more shovels. They elected Tom Perez as DNC chairman and Keith Ellison as deputy chairman. Perez is an advocate for illegal aliens [seemingly a requirement in the party now] and Ellison followed racist crackpot Louis Farrakhan and his Nation of Islam for a decade. The media is on Trump 24/7 to somehow prove he’s not an anti-semite but they have ignored the bigoted statements made by Ellison in the past. I’m sure Hollywood celebs will be making speeches tomorrow night condemning Ellison. Not.

    Ellison claims to have only discovered Farrakhan’s true nature when he first ran for elective office. An excuse the media swallowed whole, just like Obama in 2008 said he was shocked, just shocked, to learn the content of sermons given by Rev. Wright, even though he attended his church for 20 years and quoted him in his book.

    I saw a hand wringing article a few days ago on Salon talking about how conservatives were hoping they would elect Ellison, which in effect they have. Another old saying is when your enemy is out to destroy himself just step out of the way and let him do it. Instead of trying to make an outreach to white blue collar workers they just doubled down on the same stupidity and lecturing tone that has them catering to the same narrow identity politics.

    • avatar

      Leland I have a questions for you … if an immigrant comes here to look for work and eventually stays and marries a US citizen…is that OK? … also is it ok if anybody with a visa engages work without permission..is it oK?….what should be the punishment..?

  2. avatar

    After someone Rob’s a Bank, can he/she now run into a Church to hide out ? And can these Church’s not see who they are going to protect, mostly these are the same people who want to kill them ! This is simply insane !

  3. avatar

    There’s no law saying the feds can’t enter a church/mosque/synagogue to arrest. Round ’em up , tax these religious institutions and stop giving them money so they can do their charity work with tax payer money!

    • avatar

      unfortunately all churches are not enlightened to what is actually going on in the world sense the beginning of time. and not all so called Christians have read the bible, the koran or any other church publications of all other religions and compared them they will discover that not all religions are the same in their teaching or thinking. thank GOD!

  4. avatar

    That’s the lawless, seditious nonsense encouraged by the rogue President Obama, his stooges, and the liberal lemmings and dependents he pandered to.

  5. avatar

    Churches, et al that aid, abet, and harbor illegal aliens should immediately lose whatever tax exempt status they currently enjoy.

  6. avatar

    Many “religious “people want to let everyone in…help them. But in the biblical story of the Good Samaritan, he took the injured person to an inn or hotel…a safe zone. He did not take the injured man to his house/home. Many Christian people are not well read in biblical principles…the Bible never says give your money to the government so they can take care of the poor. It says You, Christian, help the poor. Give your money to government and probably 90 percent of it goes to establish a beaucracy that funnels the money to their pet projects (self). When a Christian gives, 90-100percent goes directly to the poor. Yes, the Bible says we are to pray for our leaders and follow the law, so Ob didn’t follow the law when he refused to enforce our immigration laws.

    • avatar

      You are nuts……most illegals are hardworking people…harder than yourself….the good ones..THEY CAME HERE BECAUSE WE NEVER CARED AND THE JOBS were available bUT now there is negative Mexican immigration……educate yourself…

  7. avatar

    If churches defy federal law, raid the churches. Deport the criminal illegal aliens harbored and charge the pastors with obstruction of federal law enforcement. Churches and church officials are not exempt from federal and state laws.

  8. avatar
    Charles Fischer on

    The article by Matthew O’Brien is the first cogent recital I have read explaining what the term “Immigrant” legally means – and it does not include “Illegals”. Many human emotions emerge to argue about how and when laws about “Immigrants” are to be understood and upheld – however, they always fail to address the underlying principle of obeying the law. They never offer remedies such as educating legal immigrants to become lawful citizens; they never question why an illegal immigrant would wait 20, 30, or 40 years before addressing the question of valid citizenship; and they make a broad assumption that, since someone was working here for many years, however paying no taxes or Social Security, he or she is “entitled” to benefits developed and paid for by citizens.

    Religious leaders have not stepped up and suggested that they will provide teachers and school rooms to guide both legals and illegals, who truly do wish to stay and become productive members of the U.S. society, through the Citizenship Application Process. Instead they have encouraged obstructionism in the form of so-called “sanctuary” and preached rule by mob – which does nothing to further an illegal’s route to valid citizenship. And, if the present laws of the land are so very onerous to a segment of its population, there are ways to change the laws – in a civilized and reasonable manner – not simply preach about why they fail to produce the results they were intended to. They talk about being pro-active, but they act negatively.

    The subjects just mentioned apply as well to the elected politicians, on all levels, city, state, and national. These people have done nothing positive to solve the problem except to also encourage disobedience against the very laws they were elected to uphold. They are the ones who have the charter to change laws legally, by due process, not by mob-generated Twitter comments. It is past time that the American People speak out to correct the problems, which years of neglect by intent have brought about, and restore Legal Immigration to its rightful place in the making of America.

    • avatar

      And all these open-border, do-gooders, do nothing to help American citizens who are suffering. Why is helping foreigners so much more important to them than helping their follow citizens? Why is it so hard to understand that: 1. The US cannot be a savior to the world. 2. Coming to live in America is not a right, but a privilege. 3. As a nation, we have not just a right, but an obligation, to decide carefully, who is allowed to join our society. 4. The rights enjoyed by the American people are hard-won and are for our citizens, not extended to others. 5. We are in debt more than $20 trillion, much of which is due to our attempt to buy “love” by giving billions every year to other countries & organizations. We get nothing in return not even thanks. What we do get is disrespect, demands for more, disdain for our foolishness.

    • avatar

      I totally agree. put our laws first when it comes to immigration , if the country wants a guest labor force to do work that ” no body here wants to do” then there should be guidelines stating what the terms are for staying and that they go back to their homes and family whin the season is up or if the work just across the border that they go home each night.

  9. avatar

    When houses of worship help the needy that’s godly. When it helps someone break the law that’s being an accessory to a crime and the person or persons responsible should be treated like any other criminal, jailed and prosecuted.

  10. avatar

    I Saw a Religious Open Border Leader Defending Refugee Immigration to America on the FOX Tucker Show

    Tucker asked him one question he’d never answer straight….why should the majority against refugee immigration pay for your alleged charity anyway? Where’s the American sovereign nationals’ choice in this anarchy???

    Besides Romans 13 in the Bible makes it clear….”obey the laws of your country”…

    • avatar

      Exactly and The People DID NOT … or your memory is failing…..nobody ever cared they came here…everybody made money…the most were the big fish that will eat your SS just wait n see…..