In 2017, a church in Illinois came under fire for providing sanctuary to illegal immigrants. According to CNN, the church’s congregation was primarily made up of Mexican-Americans and even endured hate speech for its efforts. But what exactly did the church do? It offered support and shelter for immigrants who feared deportation under the new immigration policies that were taking effect at the federal level.

In fact, the number of churches in America that were providing sanctuary to immigrants doubled under the Trump Administration to 800. In addition to this, 6,000 Americans pledged to open up their homes and public spaces to immigrants who are living in fear of being separated from their families through deportation.

Forbes notes that while sanctuary was one recognized by the U.S. government, by 1986, the government began to pursue legal action against the leaders of these movements. In spite of this, there are even whole cities in America that are largely considered sanctuary cities, such as San Francisco in California. Across the northern border, Toronto in Canada is also considered a sanctuary city. In these areas, city employees do not turn immigrants over to federal agents for failure to have proper immigration documents.

The Forbes writer notes that the increase in sanctuaries implies a distrust of the immigration system and American laws. The writer also implies that these sanctuaries undermine the U.S. legal system by preventing local law enforcement and immigration agents from ensuring refugee and asylum cases receive proper hearings in a court of law. For some Americans, who may consider themselves immigration activists, this is exactly what they want to hear.

With the current hostility toward even legal immigrants in America, immigrants themselves are often unlikely to trust their fate to the court system. Many would much prefer to rely on the fellowship of churches and the attempts of American citizens to offer protection. Some people believe that perhaps demonstrating greater compassion may change this.