Church Sanctuary for Illegal Aliens

Headnotes: 

The historical tradition of providing church sanctuary for criminal offenses was abolished by statute in England in 1623 and thus did not enter the United States as part of the common law.

Providing church sanctuary to illegal aliens probably violates 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a)(3), which forbids the harboring of illegal aliens.

Courts are unlikely to recognize church sanctuary as legally justified under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, because disagreement with the government’s treatment of aliens is not a religious belief that is burdened by enforcement of the immigration laws, and the government has a compelling countervailing interest in uniform law enforcement.

Updated July 9, 2014