Thursday, September 25, 2014

Join the Sanctuary Movement and Keep Families Together

Every day, close to 1,000 people are deported from this country. Mothers and fathers, brothers and friends are torn from their families and communities, deported to countries some of them no longer know. Congress has not acted to change this reality; they have failed to take any meaningful action on Comprehensive Immigration Reform. This nation desperately needs Immigration policy reform that will grant legal status to the 11 million people living in fear of deportation. Moreover, on September 6, 2014, the Obama Administration delayed executive action that could have extended deportation relief and offer work permits to thousands.

Click here to read PC(USA) Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons response to Obama’s announcement on delayed action.

In response, communities of faith across the nation have decided to take a stand against our broken immigration system: we are leading a movement to offer Sanctuary to people set to be deported and thus separated from their families. Sanctuary is the practice of offering housing and shelter in the church building, protecting people from harm; it has deep roots in church tradition. Four congregations in the U.S. are currently providing Sanctuary to four loving families; two of these churches are Presbyterian: Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson, AZ and University Presbyterian Church in Tempe, AZ.

President Obama must not continue to stand by while people are forcibly separated from their families. Contact the White House today and ask him to use his broad executive authority to stopdeportations immediately and to expand deferred action for all.

The Sanctuary Movement

Rooted in the actions of people of faith throughout history who have welcomed the stranger and loved their neighbors, Sanctuary in 2014 seeks to shield immigrants under immediate threat of deportation. By invoking 2011 policy set by immigration authorities, which recommends individuals who fit certain qualifications be granted deportation relief through prosecutorial discretion, faith communities protect these individuals in the shelter of their churches until they receive a stay of removal or their cases are closed. These qualifications include the length of time they have resided in the U.S., a lack of a criminal history, and whether an immediate family member -- a child, parent, or spouse -- is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.

Thousands of deportation cases have been closed through this type of prosecutorial discretion. But people in immigration removal proceedings rarely have access to adequate legal representation that would request this type of relief. This is where communities of faith, under the advisement of legal teams, can intervene. We can offer sanctuary, thereby publicly shielding immigrants from deportation and providing a network of care and support throughout the advocacy process. (Immigration authorities have set policy forbidding immigration officers to enter places of worship to make an arrest.)

Sanctuary Has Real Meaning in Real Lives

Daniel Neyoy Ruiz
Photo credit: Fernanda Echavarri/Arizona Public Media
Southside Presbyterian in Tucson, AZ, has taken the lead in this movement, reviving the 1980s movement (also founded at Southside) of over five hundred churches and synagogues nationwide that sheltered over ten thousand Central Americans fleeing civil wars. On May 12, 2014, Daniel Neyoy Ruiz, publicly entered into sanctuary in Southside on the eve of his deportation order. After a month of living inside the church with his family, he received a stay of removal, granting a means to remain in the U.S. and receive a work permit.

Luiz Lopez Acabal, in Sanctuary at University PC in Tempe
Right now, four immigrants reside in Sanctuary: Rosa Loreto Robles at Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson, AZ, Luis Lopez Acabal at University Presbyterian Church in Tempe, AZ, Beatriz Santiago Ramirez at Our Lady of Guadalupe Mission in Chicago, IL, and most recently, Francisco Aguirre in Agustana Lutheran Church in Portland, OR.

Their individual histories and cases are different, but they all bear the cost of immigration policy that fails to uphold the unity of family, recognize human dignity, or acknowledge immigrants’ rich and diverse contributions to their communities and this country.

Rosa Robles Loretto and family

This is how you can help*:

1. Contact the White House today and ask them to:

  • Expand deferred action for all
  • Close Luis’ case
  • Close Rosa’s case 
  • Close Beatriz's case

What does the PC(USA) say about Sanctuary?

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has affirmed its support for immigrants many times. This year, the 221st General Assembly (2014) affirmed the formation of the Presbyterian Immigrant Defense Initiative, a campaign to “empower Presbyterians to work to change policies and practices that infringe on the human and civil rights of immigrants in our communities including immigrant detention, streamlined deportation, and the executing of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) by local law enforcement.” ** Sanctuary—a movement begun by Presbyterian churches-- is heeding that call.

The 2014 Sanctuary Movement is growing. This week is the launch of the National Sanctuary Movement. Over seventy-five congregations nationwide are preparing to offer Sanctuary or to support other congregations engaging in this ministry.

Read PC(USA) Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons’ letter to President Obama on Sanctuary and delay of executive action: 

Just yesterday, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) took part in a tele-press conference about the growing Sanctuary movement. Here are the remarks prepared by the Reverend Gradye Parsons. 


* Stay tuned to our Facebook page for more updates on how you can support Sanctuary 2014.

** “On Recognizing the Presbyterian Immigrant Defense Initiative to Affirm and Promote the Civil and Human Rights of Immigrants in Our Communities—From the Presbytery of Central Florida.” Approved by the 221st General Assembly (2014).