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COLUMBIA - Rock Bridge Christian Church is now a sanctuary space. Sunday, the congregation voted in favor of the decision to host immigrants.

"As a sanctuary church we’ve declared that we are willing to host somebody who has decided to come into sanctuary,” Sarah Klaassen, Rock Bridge Christian Church pastor, said. “Someone who’s at risk of deportation, who’s under immediate pressing threat, who wouldn’t be safe, who could be taken from their home.”

Since a church is considered to be a "sensitive location" by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, churches can more safely house immigrants.

“Sensitive locations policies, which remain in effect, provide that enforcement actions at sensitive locations should generally be avoided,” according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security website.

Klaassen said Rock Bridge Christian Church started looking into joining sanctuary work in January and entered a 4-month process in May.

“Our congregation has a couple of things that are built into our DNA,” she said. "One is social justice, and one is standing in solidarity with people who are vulnerable. And we know that people who are immigrants, especially people who are undocumented, are particularly vulnerable.”

In order to make the space more livable, Klaassen said the church has to think about providing meals, converting space and creating a way to bathe.

Outside of internal logistics, Klaassen said there are other steps the church needs to take.

“Connecting more fully with the sanctuary team, and making sure we have the proper channels of connection through the immigrant community,” she said.

Rock Bridge Christian joins Unitarian Universalist Church as the only other sanctuary congregation in Columbia.

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