We are a Sanctuary Church
On January 29, 2017, at its Annual Meeting, Macalester Plymouth United Church voted to be a Sanctuary Church by an 83% majority. Joining with dozens of other Sanctuary and Sanctuary Supporting churches throughout Minnesota, we stand for the rights of all immigrants, particularly undocumented persons and protest immigration enforcement that terrorizes communities, breaks up families, denies due process, and ignores the value and contributions of immigrant families to our communities and economy. Together under the leadership of Isaiah, we will call attention to these injustices and work for change. Our protest may take many forms and may include housing someone at our church who is facing deportation. We do not enter into this work lightly but out of our commitment to being disciples of Jesus. Discipleship invites us to disrupt our lives for one another, to decry the disregard of human dignity by powers and principalities, and to extend God’s inclusive love and hospitality to those society casts aside as strangers or aliens.
To get to this point, we went through an intentional discernment process. Below you will find summaries of the events we held as well as a list of resources we used.
How Did We Get Here: US Immigration Policy
Diane Haines is the current chair of the MN Conference Immigration Team, Chair of the Mayflower Immigration Team and a member of the UCC National Immigration Collaborative. Years of solidarity trips to Guatemala, Honduras, Colombia, Mexico and Haiti have informed her understanding of the United States’ role in the current immigration crisis. She gave a brief overview of the roots of the current immigration crisis and lead a discussion about its implications for faith communities.
Click here to watch video of the presentation
What Does Being a Sanctuary Church Mean?
We watched a webinar (see it here) followed by a Q&A via Skype with Rev. Alison Harrington, pastor at Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson, AZ. They recently housed Rosa Robles Loreto for 461 days and helped her fight her deportation order. Read Rosa’s story here.
Click here to watch video of the Q&A
From Within the Community
Catalina Morales de Sanchez, Latino Organizer from Isaiah, will give us a window into the Latino community in the Twin Cities and inspire us to think about how we might become stronger allies through and beyond the Sanctuary movement. Due to the sensitive nature of her presentation, we have not posted the video link here.
What is Sanctuary?
Sanctuary is one of the most ancient traditions that we have as a people of faith. The ancient Hebrew people had allowed temples and even whole cities to declare themselves places of refuge for persons accused of a crime they may not have committed or to protest an unjust law. God calls people of faith to welcome the stranger remembering that they once were themselves once strangers in a strange land (Leviticus 19:33-34) and Jesus calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves. It’s current form is a 30 year old movement of solidarity with immigrants and protest of unjust immigration policies in the United States. Sanctuary is offering housing to persons who are facing deportation and who have a reason to fight their deportation order (family hardship, medical needs, asylum seeker, longtime resident). While living at the church, they begin to fight their deportation order with support of the church who provides all of their basic needs including food, clothing, medical care, etc. until they are able to return to their regular life. Sanctuary Supporting churches offer tangible assistance to persons living in a sanctuary church. It is partnering with a Sanctuary church to help them follow through on their commitment. There is no legal protection a church can actually offer, but Immigration, Customs and Enforcement have typically tried to stay away from doing raids in “sensitive areas” such as hospitals, schools and places of worship.
Why is this coming up now?
President Elect Trump made immigration one of his top campaign issues and has pledged to begin reversing course on our policies “day one” of his presidency. This includes:
• Deporting 2-3 million more people
• Tripling Immigration, Customs and Enforcement personnel
• Ending the Obama immigration amnesty policies immediately including the • Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) or Dream Act which protects over 750,000 young people who are in high school or college.
• Imposing financial sanctions on cities that declare themselves to be sanctuary cities
There are an estimated 90,000 undocumented immigrants in Minnesota and up to 75,000 in our workforce. Macalester College has a number of “Dream Act” students who may be facing deportation if DACA is repealed.
In the last month the number of Sanctuary churches in this country went from 200 to 500. Taking action now puts pressure to the Trump Administration in hopes of making it more difficult to follow through on his promises AND to be ready to assist immigrant communities should a new wave of deportations begin.
Why should we help people who are here illegally?
The results of US economic, political and drug enforcement policies have destabilized Mexico and Central American countries. Extreme poverty and violence have driven people to come to the US looking for safety and opportunity. Often taking unwanted low paying jobs, undocumented immigrants provide a boost to our labor force. They represent 70% of our agricultural labor. They contribute $11 billion in taxes to state and federal tax coffers.
It is immoral to destroy their livelihoods, criminalize them for trying to survive, ignore our interdependence on their presence here and then turn around and throw them out of our country when we need to look tough on immigration. Immigration enforcement terrorizes families, separates parents from children, and drops people off in countries where they may not know anyone. The Obama Administration has overseen the deportation of 2.5 million people since 2009, the most by any administration. As people of faith, we must see beyond the label of “illegal alien” to recognize that we are responsible for the desperation that drove them here and are beneficiaries of their hard work and positive contributions to our communities. Currently, there are an estimated 90,000 undocumented immigrants in Minnesota and up to 75,000 in our workforce.
There is much we do not yet know about how Immigration enforcement and policy will change in the coming weeks, months and years, but change is coming. As a result, there is no way to have all of our questions answered about what will be required of us as a Sanctuary church before we vote on January 29. For me this comes down to two things. First, with whom will we stand when this new administration takes over? I feel called to stand where Jesus stood, with those pushed to the margins by fear and prejudice. And second, are we willing to make an open-ended to commitment to the immigrant community in Minnesota without having all of the answers? I believe the only way to know how to be of service and participate in justice is to move from the sidelines into direct relationship. Jesus was willing to disrupt his life for the needs of others. I am, too.
Roles of Sanctuary and Supporting Churches (PDF)
From the PCUSA:
Update on post-election Sanctuary Movement
Webinar on Sanctuary Movement (free registration required)
Story of Rosa Robles housed at Southside Presbyterain Church, Tuscon (article)
From Auburn Seminary:
Sanctuary in a Trump Era (video)
From New York Times:
Houses of Worship to Serve as Trump Era Immigrant Sanctuaries