Faith group pledges to help im­mi­grants stay in coun­try

Sanc­tu­ary DMV says it will re­sist Trump crack­down

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - BY JU­LIA BROUIL­LETTE

In an ex­er­cise of re­li­gious lib­erty, dozens of lo­cal churches, mosques and syn­a­gogues have de­clared them­selves “sanc­tu­ary” con­gre­ga­tions — pledg­ing to defy Pres­i­dent Trump’s crack­down on il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion by of­fer­ing to pro­tect those threat­ened with de­por­ta­tion.

The net­work, called Sanc­tu­ary DMV, con­sists of more than 60 con­gre­ga­tions from 17 re­li­gious tra­di­tions and aims to “re­sist the newly elected ad­min­is­tra­tion’s pol­icy pro­pos­als to tar­get and de­port mil­lions of un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants.”

For All Souls Church Uni­tar­ian in Columbia Heights, be­com­ing a sanc­tu­ary con­gre­ga­tion could mean be­com­ing a phys­i­cal haven for some of the nearly 100,000 im­mi­grants who live in the District.

“For us, this is about liv­ing out our mis­sion to care for the com­mu­nity, par­tic­u­larly the most vul­ner­a­ble,” said the Rev. Rob Kei­than, All Souls’ so­cial justice min­istry con­sul­tant. “We feel a very deep call­ing to re­spond and make it clear that we value all of all neigh­bors, re­gard­less of whether or not they have pa­pers.”

Mr. Kei­than said be­com­ing a sanc­tu­ary is about not only pro­vid­ing a refuge for il­le­gal im­mi­grants, but also cre­at­ing a sup­port­ive and re­source­ful com­mu­nity.

To that end, All Souls and many other Sanc­tu­ary DMV con­gre­ga­tions are train­ing vol­un­teers to ac­com­pany il­le­gal im­mi­grants to Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment (ICE) hear­ings and re­spond to ICE raids.

“The prin­ci­ple of the sanc­tu­ary move­ment is to make it a pub­lic strug­gle,” said Mr. Kei­than. “We want to high­light the fact that this kind of en­force­ment makes no sense and is the ab­so­lute wrong way to ap­proach fix­ing a bro­ken im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem.”

Sup­port­ers of Mr. Trump’s im­mi­gra­tion crack­down de­fend the mea­sures by point­ing to crimes, like the rape of a girl at Rockville High School in March al­legedly by two il­le­gal im­mi­grants. One of the sus­pects had been fac­ing de­por­ta­tion be­fore the rape charges.

Schools, churches and hos­pi­tals are sanc­tu­ar­ies in ef­fect un­der ICE’s “sen­si­tive lo­ca­tions” pol­icy, which di­rects agents to avoid tak­ing peo­ple into custody in those spa­ces.

Roughly 800 con­gre­ga­tions across the coun­try have de­clared them­selves sanc­tu­ar­ies, a num­ber that dou­bled af­ter Elec­tion Day, ac­cord­ing to PICO Na­tional Net­work, a faith-based com­mu­nity or­ga­niz­ing group.

The move­ment dates back to the 1980s, when con­gre­ga­tions acted as shel­ters for Cen­tral Amer­i­can refugees flee­ing civil war.

“We def­i­nitely see this work as build­ing on that legacy,” Mr. Kei­than said, adding that sev­eral lead­ers in­volved in cur­rent sanc­tu­ary ef­forts at All Souls — which is lo­cated in the heart of D.C.’s Cen­tral Amer­i­can com­mu­nity — were once refugees.

Dum­bar­ton United Methodist Church in Ge­orge­town, one of the District’s old­est con­gre­ga­tions, shel­tered a Sal­vado­ran im­mi­grant who en­tered the coun­try il­le­gally in 1985.

Mary Kay Totty, who has served as the church’s se­nior pas­tor since 2009, said her con­gre­ga­tion is pre­pared to act as a sanc­tu­ary again, in keep­ing with “a tra­di­tion we’ve had for years.”

“What­ever chal­lenges we might face with our will­ing­ness to be a sanc­tu­ary con­gre­ga­tion would pale in com­par­i­son to the chal­lenges peo­ple of color have in this coun­try,” she said.

De­por­ta­tions were car­ried out in high num­bers un­der former Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, reignit­ing the push for sanc­tu­ary con­gre­ga­tions.

But un­der the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s stricter im­mi­gra­tion law en­force­ment poli­cies, the move­ment has be­come more crit­i­cal, ac­cord­ing to Mr. Kei­than.

Last month, hun­dreds of peo­ple from D.C.-area con­gre­ga­tions — in­clud­ing Chris­tians of sev­eral de­nom­i­na­tions, Jews, Bud­dhists and Mus­lims — marched through down­town Washington and ral­lied in front of the White House to of­fi­cially launch the Sanc­tu­ary DMV net­work.

On Tues­day, the net­work held a vigil out­side the Bal­ti­more ICE of­fice to stand in sol­i­dar­ity with an un­doc­u­mented woman as she went to her ICE check-in. ICE granted the mother of four from Mex­ico a stay of one year in the U.S., ac­cord­ing to the Washington Eth­i­cal So­ci­ety, a hu­man­is­tic con­gre­ga­tion in the Sanc­tu­ary DMV net­work.


Shrine of the Sa­cred Heart Catholic Church is one of more than 60 con­gre­ga­tions from 17 re­li­gious back­grounds that’s af­fil­i­ated with Sanc­tu­ary DMV. The Rev. Rob Kei­than says the group aims to cre­ate a com­mu­nity for im­mi­grants.

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