Pastor: City Hall Statements Show 'Intent' To Oppress Immigrants And Those Who Help Them

Jun 25, 2017

The building code commissioner for Springfield, Mass., has sent a warning letter to a church that plans to become a sanctuary for immigrants facing deportation.

Mayor Domenic Sarno earlier this week directed city departments to look for potential violations if South Congregational Church ends up housing immigrants who are undocumented.

On Tuesday, the building code commissioner met with the Reverend Tom Gerstenlauer to talk about the many building and zoning codes that would apply to the church. That list was spelled out in a letter sent Friday.

South Congregational Church Building Code Letter by New England Public Radio on Scribd

While the letter itself focused on the regulations, an accompanying statement from the mayor's office signaled his focus on a larger issue. It said Sarno "remains steadfast against any type of sanctuary city status," referencing communities where police refuse to enforce federal immigration law.

Gerstenlauer, in response, said the building code and zoning concerns have done nothing to change the church's intention to offer a sanctuary for immigrants.

But he said the letter -- along with Sarno's public statements -- are continuing proof of "the intent to exercise the system in an oppressive way, not only over identified undocumented immigrant populations that are woefully inaccurately described in those communications, but also extending to anyone who would offer them assistance and accompaniment."

Gerstenlauer said the mayor, the building commissioner and other city officials are welcome to attend a July 6 vigil to pray on these issues.

He said the church has not taken in any individuals or families yet, but preparations continue.