The New Sanctuary Movement: An Interfaith Advocacy Campaign for Immigrants
November 13, 2014
After months of silence, the White House is bringing US immigration policy back into the spotlight with President Obama supposedly “nearing a final decision” on issuing an executive order. Back in June, politicians and media outlets declared that the arrival of approximately 350 immigrant children daily was a humanitarian crisis. The typical hand-wringing and calls for action seemed to explode into public discourse. Two months later all mention of the immigration crisis evaporated. For months Congress and the federal government chose to do nothing to change immigration policy, and nearly 1,000 undocumented immigrants a day are denied refugee status and deported—to say nothing of the thousands currently being held in detention facilities.
In light of this stagnation, religious organizations have reignited the Sanctuary Movement, an interfaith campaign that encourages congregations to open their doors and offer sanctuary to those facing deportation. Just two weeks ago the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ declared a recommitment to the movement in a press release from UUA president Peter Morales saying, “Keeping immigrant families together is a moral issue. . . . I encourage all Unitarian Universalist congregations to support the Sanctuary Movement and to consider providing sanctuary to immigrants facing deportation.” With roots in the 1980s, the original sanctuary movement was made up of hundreds of faith communities committed to sheltering refugees trying to escape violent civil war in Central America. Today’s movement is born out of frustration with a broken immigration system, Congress’s intransigence, and the federal government’s failure to act.
The congregation of the First Unitarian Society of Denver, one of several churches that have opened their doors to those seeking sanctuary, welcomed Arturo Hernandez Garcia, a 41-year-old contractor from Mexico and father of two, making him the first person in Colorado to claim sanctuary. Today there are approximately two dozen congregations across the nation offering sanctuary and seventy congregations lending their support. Check out the Sanctuary Movement website for more information and learn how you can help.
Want to learn more about the state of immigration in America? Here are a few books to get you started. Find more on our website.
Blending history with human drama, Aviva Chomsky explores what it means to be Undocumented in a legal, social, economic, and historical context. The result is a powerful testament of the complex, contradictory, and ever-shifting nature of status in America.
With eleven narratives and incisive reporting, The Right to Stay Home gives readers the chance to hear the voices of activists themselves, and documents the story of the growing resistance among Mexican communities against the poverty that forces people to migrate to the United States.
The true story of an immigrant’s murder at the hands of a group of teenagers, Hunting Season is an unflinching portrait of one community struggling to reconcile the hate and fear underlying the idyllic veneer of their all-American town. With a strong commitment to telling all sides of the story, Ojito unravels the engrossing narrative with objectivity and insight, providing an invaluable look at one of America’s most pressing issues.
Jenah Blitz-Stoehr is a marketing associate for Beacon Press. She is a graduate of UMass-Lowell and attended Boston College’s Masters program for English Literature. In her spare time she brews beer and bikes around Boston.