Tremont's Pilgrim Congregational United Church of Christ Becomes Sanctuary to Aid Father Facing Deportation


  • BJ Colangelo Photo
The congregation of the historic Pilgrim Congregational United Church of Christ in Tremont has voted to become the third sanctuary church in Northeast Ohio, hoping to aid an undocumented immigrant who is currently facing deportation.

Eulogio Hernandez Box has lived in Ohio for nearly two decades but due to the current administration, Stay of Deportation opportunities are no longer available.

“In previous years, someone like Eulogio would be able to apply for and be granted a Stay of Deportation, or get his case administratively closed since he is not considered a threat to public safety or national security,” said Kelly Burd, pastor of Pilgrim Church, at a press conference this morning.

Hernandez Box is married, father of four American citizens and also serves as a guardian for his late sister's children, whose father was deported a few years ago. His sister's eldest son is a 17-year-old Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient.

Pilgrim Congregational UCC is putting its commitment to serve its community above all else, as officials with a warrant can arrest undocumented immigrants regardless of whether they're at a house of worship. Additionally, the Immigration and Nationality Act prohibits anyone from knowingly harboring an undocumented immigrant "in any place, including any building." Pilgrim Congregational is willing to take that risk to prevent what Burd calls, "another family tragically separated.”

"We stand with interfaith friends and local supporters against policies that are harming neighbors and needlessly tearing apart families." Burd said. She then took to the bible, citing Leviticus 19:34, "The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God."

Pilgrim Congregational UCC  hosts a community forum about immigration from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. tomorrow at their church. Panelists include Veronica Dahlberg, Executive Director of Hola; John Flores, Associate Professor of History at Case Western Reserve University, who specializes in Mexican-American history; and the Rev. J. Bennett Guess, Executive Director of ACLU of Ohio, UCC clergy and members of Pilgrim. Pilgrim Congregational is located at 2592 W. 14th St.

Now that the church has become a sanctuary, it's living up to its covenant more than ever: "We pledge to seek justice, to oppose violence, racism, sexism, fear of differences, economic inequity, and abuse of power, and substitute acts of goodwill and caring; To feed the hungry, to nurture the ill, and to prevent cruelty to any of God’s children or any of God’s Creatures. We pledge ourselves to welcome people of all sexual orientations into the full life and ministry of the church."

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