We supported sanctuary at University Baptist Church in the 1980’s and we are ready to do it again. We are working with churches in the Central Area to identify a space where an immigrant at risk of deportation can be housed. Kadima members will be invited to help prepare the living space, take shifts in the space to offer protection and companionship, run errands, and much more. We also plan to hold regular movie and discussion nights open to the community, and hold a regular Kadima protest at the Northwest Detention Center, a large, privately-owned immigration prison in Tacoma.
What situation would compel someone to seek sanctuary? Here is the story of Rosa, a mother who stayed in a church in Tucson for fifteen months in 2014-15, told by Kadima member Ellen Punyon, who volunteered with the Tucson Samaritans during Rosa’s time in sanctuary. Rosa was born, married and lived in a Mexican border town. She and her family came to live in the US in order to provide a good education and safe community for her children. She got health care in Mexico, so as not to take advantage of the US system. She was an at-home mom, attended her children’s baseball games and helped them with their homework, while her husband worked in construction. One day Rosa was pulled over by police in a minor traffic stop. Because she was undocumented, she was incarcerated, then released and had regular check-ins with ICE for years. In 2014, ICE ordered her deportation. Her attorney and her devastated family decided that rather than be deported, she would enter sanctuary at a church.
Rosa lived at the church, spending her time reading and helping with church projects. She had visits with her family and a weekly prayer circle. Meanwhile, immigration activists in Tucson organized the community to post signs, raise money, and volunteer to support her. It was fifteen months before ICE agreed to lower the priority of her deportation, and she was able to move back home. At her release, she said, "This has been a huge spiritual learning experience, even though it has been so hard. It gave me a lesson in how much people can love one another. I came in here with a family of four. Today, I know I have an even bigger family. I will keep going, because I thought there were no opportunities for me. Today I have the opportunity to leave," and she wants others in similar circumstances to have the same chance.
Sanctuary is not new. Think of the Underground Railroad, or righteous gentiles who hid Jews from Nazis, or Sanctuary Cities in Biblical times. Is it legal? It is possible we face legal risk for the felony of “harboring” an undocumented person. We are comfortable that as long as we are providing hospitality publicly and openly, the legal risk to Kadima is small. In harboring an immigrant publicly, we take advantage of an immigration policy of viewing churches, schools, and hospitals as “sensitive areas.” This policy holds that ICE cannot apprehend someone from the private section of a sensitive area without a proper federal warrant. We feel that the risks our sanctuary volunteers might face are tiny in comparison to the suffering endured by many immigrants in their home countries, on their journey to the US, or their risk if they were deported to a dangerous home country. We do not know if the Sessions Justice Department will respect the sensitive area practice. But we are prepared to use our holy space as protection as long as we can. If ICE comes with a warrant, we will invite the faith community, neighbors, and others to stand with us to witness, document, and publicize the arrest.
Why is Kadima joining the sanctuary movement? We want to uphold the practice of our foreparents, Abraham and Sarah, who joyously went out of their way to welcome strangers with hospitality. Many Kadima members have family histories of immigration to escape danger. Our history helps us view our immigrant neighbors not as “other, ” “illegal,” or not even as good immigrants who can contribute financially to the US economy, but as human beings, as in the Holiness Code of Leviticus, “You shall love the stranger each one as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” We are taught to stand up against unjust immigration laws by the words of Dr. King’s letter from the Birmingham jail, “ There are just laws and there are unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that an unjust law is no law at all…One who breaks an unjust law must do it openly, lovingly.”
There is room for YOU in this amazing project. Join us for a work party. Volunteer to join our planning committee, or to be on call for support tasks when the sanctuary space is filled. Volunteer by filling out the paper forms you receive during High Holiday services, by responding to the email you will receive during the High Holidays, or by emailing me at email@example.com. Together, we can make a wall of loving protection for someone like Rosa.
Dina Burstein and Ellen Punyon are members of Kadima and are spearheading our Sanctuary Committee. To learn more, follow our website for upcoming events, or email Dina to find out how you can help today.
Sukkot Sanctuary Ceremony and Protest @ Northwest Detention Center:
Saturday, October 7, 2:15 pm, Northwest Detention Center, 1623 E J St, Tacoma, WA
Join Kadima's Sanctuary Team for a field trip to the NW Detention Center for a Sukkot Sanctuary ceremony and protest. Meet at Kadima at 1 pm to carpool down or meet us there. Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.