Columns

Mississippi Governor to Churches: Follow 'Man's Law' and Stop Harboring Illegal Immigrants

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant delivers his State of the State address on Jan. 17, 2017, at the Capitol in Jackson, Miss. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

WASHINGTON – Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) said faith leaders should follow “man’s law” and not harbor illegal immigrants in churches and other places of worship.

PJM asked Bryant if he thinks churches and religious organizations should help shield undocumented immigrants from deportation.

“I don’t believe so. I think if you are a faith leader or anyone else you have to look also at the nation’s law. There’s God’s law and then there’s man’s law, and man’s law says that you have to go by certain rules and standards to become a citizen of the United States or you come here illegally – illegally means it’s against the law,” Bryant told PJM during the National Governors Association winter meeting in Washington over the weekend.

“We are a nation of laws, so the federal government is going about enforcing the laws. And I hope people of faith will understand that part of the responsibility of your faithfulness is to also understand what man’s law is,” he added.

Federal law imposes penalties against any individual who “knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that an alien has come to, entered, or remains in the United States in violation of law, conceals, harbors, or shields from detection, or attempts to conceal, harbor, or shield from detection, such alien in any place, including any building or any means of transportation.”

An ICE memo issued in 2011 said enforcement in “sensitive locations” such as churches and schools should be avoided by officers unless absolutely necessary. Some churches and other faith-based organizations across the nation are reportedly offering a safe haven for undocumented immigrants to protect them from deportation.

“If you need a safe place, once you enter the doors of this building, you are safe,” said Rev. Abraham Waya, pastor of Central United Methodist Church in Brockton, Mass., which the Associated Press reported plans to shelter up to 100 undocumented immigrants. “We will host you and take care of you for as long as it takes.”

According to the Chicago Tribune, “hundreds of churches, synagogues and mosques nationwide — and about two dozen in the Chicago area — are considering the bold move to provide sanctuary to immigrants who are living in the U.S. illegally.”

According to the Boston Globe, “at least three Boston-area congregations have committed to offering living space in their buildings to illegal immigrants.”

Bryant said Mississippi residents and lawmakers are worried about cities or schools trying to prevent federal authorities from enforcing existing immigration laws.

“I know what the people of Mississippi are concerned about, and it’s whether or not a city or municipality or university president might say, ‘We are going to prevent the federal government from receiving information regarding illegal immigrants, even those that have committed crimes within our municipalities,’” he said.

“We think the people of the state of Mississippi want to enforce the federal laws when it comes to immigration, and that doesn’t include protecting someone who has violated those laws.”