Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Struggle for Family Unity Continues: Sanctuary Movement 2014

Today as we await President Obama’s announcement on deportation relief for a undocumented immigrants, we continue to affirm the need for the 2014 revival of the 1980s Sanctuary movement.

Sanctuary 2014, in short, is the nationwide movement of people of faith to shield family members under immediate threat of deportation from separation. 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.

A Growing Movement

Since our last post, the movement has grown. There are now six individuals residing in the Sanctuary of congregations across the nation, from Francisco Aguirre in Portland, OR to Angela Navarro in Philadelphia PA. Over 24 congregations are prepared to offer Sanctuary when needed, and more than 70 congregations have signed a declaration in support of the movement.*

We’ve also seen the movement work: Beatriz Santiago Ramirez, the mother who took Sanctuary in Chicago in September, won her case three weeks ago!**

Three PC(USA) Churches Now Provide Sanctuary
Rosa with husband Gerardo and their sons

Rosa Robles Loreto and Luis Lopez Acabal and the Presbyterian church communities that surround them continue to struggle to reach a resolution to their cases in Tucson and Tempe, AZ, respectively.

Rosa Robles Loreto, a spouse and mother of two boys, has been living in Sanctuary at Southside Presbyterian, for over 100 days. She is unlikely to receive relief under President Obama’s executive action, which will only grant relief to parents of documented children.

Luis with wife Mayra and their daughter
Luis Lopez Acabal, a spouse and father, has resided within the bounds of University Presbyterian for 74 days. It is unsure whether he will be granted relief through the President’s action.

Angela Navarro entered into Sanctuary at West Kensington Ministry at Norris Square (PCUSA affiliated) in Philadelphia, PA, with her husband and two children on Tuesday of this week. She is the 8th individual to do so this year. Angela is a hard-working mother who has lived in the U.S. for over 10 years. She met her husband and has raised two children here.

Executive action does not mean our struggle is over: we still need Sanctuary. Applications for the pending deportation relief will not become available until the new year, potentially leaving the families in Sanctuary in legal limbo. Moreover, we don’t know whether individuals with final deportation orders, like those in Sanctuary, will be able to apply for relief. Not only that, millions of families like Rosa’s will not benefit from this relief, whether from having undocumented children, a past criminal record, or no children at all.
Angela Navarro and her two children

How You Can Help:

As people of faith, we must continue to stand on the side of the most vulnerable immigrants and their families. This executive action is likely to increase the vulnerability of undocumented immigrants who do not meet its requirements.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) affirmed at the 221st General Assembly that it strongly supports local churches standing in solidarity with and protect immigrants facing deportation. This assembly created 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.

In the next weeks, look for more ways to support those in Sanctuary.