(with thanks from First Unitarian Society of Denver)
What Is Our Community Being Asked To Consider?
To become a sanctuary community, we would continue to educate ourselves and our community about immigration issues; commit ourselves to public advocacy for humane immigration reform that does not tear families apart; and possibly, at times, invite an immigrant who is facing detention or deportation to seek sanctuary (residence).
Why Is This Something We Are Called To Do?
We hear a clear message from our shared sacred text:
Do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor. (Leviticus 19:16)
Justice! Justice shall you pursue. (Deuteronomy 16:20)
You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. (Exodus 22:20)
You shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the feelings of the stranger, having yourselves been strangers in the land of Egypt. (Exodus 23:9)
The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I the Eternal One am your God. (Leviticus 19:34)
You, too, must befriend the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. Deuteronomy (10:19)
You shall not subvert the rights of the stranger or the fatherless … (Deuteronomy 25:17)
What Is The “New Sanctuary Movement”?
The New Sanctuary Movement is a coalition of interfaith religious leaders and participating congregations, called by our faith to respond actively and publicly to the suffering of our immigrant brothers and sisters residing in the United States. The New Sanctuary Pledge says: “We acknowledge that the large scale immigration of workers and their families to the United States is a complex historical, global and economic phenomenon that has many causes and does not lend itself to simplistic public policy solutions.
We stand together in our faith that everyone, regardless of national origin, has basic common rights, including but not limited to: 1) livelihood; 2) family unity; and 3) physical and emotional safety. Current immigration policy, particularly in the separation of children from their parents due to unjust deportations, and in the exploitation of immigrant workers violate these rights. We cannot, in good conscience, ignore the violence, suffering and injustice done to families through immigration raids.
Was There An “Old” Sanctuary Movement?
Yes! In the early 1980’s, thousands of Central American refugees poured into the United States, fleeing life threatening repression and extensive human rights violations by their governments. At the time, federal immigration policy would have denied the majority political asylum simply because their governments were allies of the U.S. Many of these refugees had actively participated in the liberation theology movement and naturally sought protection from congregations.
Many Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and other congregations and temples responded positively offering these refugees social services and advocacy support as well as engaging actively in efforts to change federal immigration policy. These congregations, united under the banner of the Sanctuary Movement, also pledged that they would not reveal the identities of these refugees, even if they were arrested or jailed for doing so.
The Sanctuary Movement was ultimately successful both in changing national policy and in protecting tens of thousands of individuals and families, enabling them to start new lives in the U.S.
If We Did Host An Immigrant Seeking Sanctuary, What Would S/he Be Like?
Sanctuary seekers share the following criteria—they must:
Be in the legal process and under an order of deportation
Have American citizen children
Have a Good work record
Have a Viable case under current law
If We Did Host A Sanctuary Seeker, How Long Would S/he Reside In The Church?
If we do decide to host a sanctuary seeker in our church, we would host her/him for an initial period of three months. After evaluating the sanctuary relationship, we would decide to either extend the hosting relationship for a minimum of another three months, or end the sanctuary hosting at our facility and assist in a transition to another religious organization.
Where Would A Sanctuary Seeker Live In The Building?
We are in the process of working within our community to ask these questions. At this point, discussions have been happening among the clergy, staff, the Board of Trustees, among others within the community.
Would Hosting a Sanctuary Seeker Interfere With Our Other Events?
Becoming a sanctuary community will cause little or no disruption to our communities’ events and activities. We will be welcoming a new family into those activities as our shared community.
Would Hosting a Sanctuary Seeker Interfere With Our Hosting Weeks for the Women’s Homelessness Shelter?
The New Sanctuary Initiative should have little impact on this important program. Most of the sanctuary seekers welcome opportunities to participate in our community and social justice activities. It is possible that the new resident would join us in doing volunteer service.
Would We Be Doing this Alone?
We definitely would not be alone. The Metro Denver Sanctuary Coalition has partnered and led other congregations down this path. The members of that coalition are composed of communities that do NOT house an undocumented immigrant and offer their support to those congregations that do. We also plan to invite other Park Hill community institutions or individual neighbors to join us in this effort.
What Do Our Denominations Say About The New Sanctuary Movement?
The Union for Reform Judaism passed a “Resolution on Protecting Individuals at Risk of Deportation from the United States.” It includes the following statement: “The Union for Reform Judaism … recommends that congregations, after discussion within their congregants and with legal counsel, respond to the need to protect the lives and well-being of undocumented immigrants at risk of deportation by adopting a plan that could include one or more of the following:
Providing sanctuary in the form of temporary shelter within their facilities
Providing legal assistance to fight deportation cases
Providing material, financial or educational support”
————– ————– ————– ————–
In its Book of Resolutions the United Methodist Church states that it … “affirms the worth, dignity, and inherent value and rights of all persons regardless of their nationality or legal status. United Methodist churches throughout the United States are urged to build bridges with migrants in their local communities, to learn from them, celebrate their presence in the United States and recognize and appreciate the contributions in all areas of life that migrants bring. We call upon all United Methodist churches to engage in the following:
advocate for legislation that will uphold the civil and human rights of all migrants in the United States and will provide an opportunity to attain legal status for all undocumented migrants currently in the United States, as well as for those arriving in the future;
denounce and oppose the rise of xenophobic, racist, and violent reactions against migrants in the United States, and support all efforts to build relationships among people, instead of building walls among diverse ethnicities and cultures;
call the United States government to immediately cease all arrests, detainment, and deportations of undocumented immigrants, including children, solely based upon their immigration status until a fair and comprehensive immigration reform is passed;
support those churches that prayerfully choose to offer sanctuary to undocumented migrants facing deportation.
You can see the entire UMC statement here.
What Does “Providing Sanctuary” Mean?
As an act of public witness, the New Sanctuary Movement enables congregations to publicly provide hospitality and protection to a limited number of immigrant families whose legal cases clearly reveal the contradictions and moral injustice of our current immigration system while working to support legislation that would change their situation.
These families will be in the deportation process, include citizen children, have adults with good work records and have a potential case under current law. Participating congregations will offer a family hospitality for a limited period; the family will rotate from one congregation to another as needed until their case is resolved. The Center for Constitutional Rights maintains that because the family’s identity will be public, the congregations will not be violating federal law. However, this argument has never been tested in court. A congregation or individual making the decision to harbor or transport an undocumented immigrant should consider it as an act of civil disobedience and consult legal counsel for a full explanation of the risks involved in such a decision.
What Does A Host Congregation Do?
Host an immigrant and support the family for an initial commitment. The family will use the congregation as their mailing address and will be able to spend time as needed at the site. They may need actual hospitality (a place to live) in the congregation.
Help with material and spiritual support for the family. There will be a larger network of individuals and congregations who will not be hosting families but will be providing material and spiritual support for families. Expert immigration lawyers will be handling their case.
Participate in a public witness and media relations with congregations all over the country who are hosting families. All of the host and allied congregations join in an interfaith statement of accompaniment/solidarity lifting up the human rights of immigrant families.
How Can I Get Involved in the Park Hill/Micah Sanctuary Effort??
Phone: (303) 388-4239 or (303) 322-1867