The Rev. Robin Hynicka and his congregation are certainly circumventing U.S. immigration law by sheltering an illegal immigrant inside the Arch St. Methodist Church in Philadelphia. But Rev. Hynicka answers to a higher law. He says the immigration policy ordering the deportation of Javier Flores Garcia is unjust – a law God gives him the power to question. And he's not the only cleric in the U.S. who feels and acts this way. As Scott Pelley reports, Arch St. Methodist is just one of more than 800 churches and synagogues offering sanctuary to illegal immigrants in response to the new crackdown ordered by the Trump administration. Pelley's report will be broadcast on 60 Minutes Sunday, May 21 at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
"When a law breaks the backs of God's people then it's time for us to think about breaking those laws," says Rev. Hynicka. Flores Garcia has three children who are U.S. citizens, so to avoid a separation, he moved into Arch St. Church. He has lived in the U.S. for 20 years and has a decade-old DUI on his record. For that and repeatedly crossing the border, a judge ordered him deported.
"When a law breaks the backs of God's people then it's time for us to think about breaking those laws." Rev. Hynicka
Rev. Hynicka says man's law in this case goes against God's law. "It's injustice and oppression all of which is evil," he tells Pelley. "When a human being's human rights are denied, when they can't stay with their family, when they can't work, when they can't participate in the community in which they have deep roots, all of those apply."
As the deputy director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), its Daniel Ragsdale's job to uphold this law. But he understands the human part of this mini-rebellion by the clergy. "As a human being, I know it is traumatic for folks," says Ragsdale. "But I will also say that the rule of law is something that America is built on."
Ragsdale says people like Flores Garcia should report to the authorities. When Pelley says that would get such persons deported, Ragsdale acknowledges he has a duty to do just that. Then tells Pelley, "I would suggest that every person who has…come to the United States illegally, just like if I went somewhere and…resided in violation of law, I could expect at some point that sovereign country to want to remove me."
"As a human being, I know it is traumatic for folks. But I will also say that the rule of law is something that America is built on." Daniel Ragsdale, deputy director of ICE
Federal agents can arrest Flores in the church, but ICE has a decades-long policy of avoiding places of worship, schools and hospitals.
Philadelphia is one of 600 cities and counties that have declared themselves "sanctuary cities," whose police will not ask detainees their immigration status, nor hold immigrants for the federal government if it wants to deport them. Mayor Jim Kenney tells Pelley that the city is upholding the U.S. Constitution by protecting immigrant's rights. There are an estimated 11 million people in the U.S. who could, like Flores Garcia, be deported under the right conditions. There are 6,000 ICE officers who work on detentions and removals.
Rev. Hynicka knows what God wants, but with man's laws in the mix, he can't be sure of what will happen to Flores Garcia. "We're taking a leap of faith, right, in many respects, because we don't know what's going to happen," he tells Pelley.