Deportations may affect survival of US churches, Christian leaders fear

Some Christian leaders fear that the deportation of illegal immigrants may affect the survival of churches in the United States amid a continuous decline in church attendance and a dependence on the latter group to fill the empty pews.

(REUTERS / Lucy Nicholson)People participate in a protest march calling for human rights and dignity for immigrants, in Los Angeles, February 18, 2017.

As the number of Americans who skip church is increasing, immigrants now make up a bigger portion of the Christian population in the U.S. National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference president Rev. Samuel Rodriguez said this was the biggest factor affecting the growth of American Christianity at present, NPR detailed.

"Mass deportation of current immigrants would do nothing less than cripple American Christianity for generations to come," said Rev. Rodriguez. "If you deport the immigrants, you are deporting the future of Christianity."

Rev. Tim Holland, the head of a nondenominational bilingual church in Texas, echoed the fears of other Christian leaders regarding the effect of mass deportations. His church consists of two congregations. One of them is made up of English speakers and the other is for Spanish speakers. However, Holland said the crackdown on illegal immigrants "would have a massive, massive immediate impact" on Christian congregations like theirs.

Based on surveys conducted by the Pew Research Center, a quarter of the Catholics in the U.S. were born elsewhere. It was also discovered that around 40 percent of the country's Eastern Orthodox Christian congregation were also immigrants. A lot of Hispanic migrants were Catholic as well, and parishes all over the country have opened their doors to these people.

Meanwhile, in New Jersey, a temporary restraining order was issued by U.S. District Judge Esther Salas earlier this month to keep Indonesian Christians there from getting deported. Her ruling gives them another chance to process their asylum applications in the country, USA Today reported.

A federal judge in Massachusetts has also issued a similar ruling siding with Indonesian Christians. They were given 90 days to process their cases once again after they get the documents from their previous application. This means the government cannot deport them until after the Board of Immigration Appeals releases a ruling on these new cases.