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Sanctuary: Law and Alternatives

Written by Jim Caldiero on .

Rich Wachterman posted an insightful and helpful analysis regarding legal penalties for harboring an undocumented immigrant on UUCC’s Yahoo Group site. I encourage you to read it. For those of you who are not members of the Yahoo Group, I have posted his analysis on our UUCC Social Justice website. (Go to the site and open Rich Wachterman’s Legal Analysis file). 

For more lively discussion, join us in the chapel, between services, Sunday, April 30.

In response to Rich's analysis, it is significant to note that no church has been prosecuted or convicted for sheltering an undocumented immigrant in modern American history. (In the nineteenth century, churches were at risk for offering sanctuary to African-Americans fleeing slavery, but no church was ever prosecuted.) The last time any clergy person was prosecuted was in the 1980’s when two nuns were convicted not only of harboring but also of smuggling immigrants seeking asylum from the violent civil wars in Central America. As Rich notes, both the statute (Section 274 (a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 USC 1324)) as well as several courts make a distinction about harboring and concealment. Churches offering physical sanctuary must publicly announce the act to avoid prosecution for concealment. If we were to host (I prefer this term to “harboring”), we would do so while an immigrant’s request for a stay of removal was undergoing administrative and judicial proceedings, hardly concealment.

I agree that prosecution of a church or clergy person today is unlikely, but given Mr. Trump’s occasional flights to alternate reality, one cannot be certain. One concern that we should address, however, regarding hosting is that despite ICE’s current “Sensitive Locations” policy to avoid entering schools, hospitals and houses of worship, we can't be certain ICE would honor the policy with OBIC. OBIC is wide open, renting daily for businesses and community organizations to meet, which raises the issue of a “reasonable expectation of privacy.” ICE has acknowledged that administrative warrants (i.e., orders of deportation) do not allow its officers to enter places where there are such expectations without consent. The question is: do we bet the farm (or OBIC) on a judicial interpretation of “reasonable expectation of privacy?”

An alternative to becoming a physical sanctuary (thus avoiding the legal, insurance and emotional aspects of housing) is to become a sanctuary support congregation that provides volunteers and material and financial support to a hosting site and continues its advocacy and witness program.

As a sanctuary support congregation, we can:

  • advocate to stop unjust deportation policies.
  • work with Attorney General Frosh and the state legislature to seek expungement of criminal records for minor offenses; ICE priority for deportation is anyone with a criminal record, including individuals with minor offenses with low penalties
  • offer prophetic witness and tell the stories of unjust deportation at all levels of government and to the public
  • support and defend continued administrative policies such as “sensitive locations” and “prosecutorial discretion.”
  • defend the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program that allows “dreamers” to continue to stay and pursue their studies in the U.S.
  • defend Sanctuary Cities and other local government entities that oppose ICE detainer policies such as “Secure Communities” and Section 287g of the Immigration and Nationality Act
  • participate in or create a network to provide “know your rights” education; for example, we intend to place “know your rights” cards in our free food pantry
  • offer our sanctuary and meeting space to immigrant and community groups
  • coordinate legal and housing assistance with local community groups and local governments; for example, we plan to host a Howard County Multi-Service Center at OBIC with fourteen government agencies and NGO’s, such as FIRN
  • oppose government policies that seek to increase the criminalization or mandatory sentencing of immigrants
  • defend asylum seekers by working against expedited removal so immigrants can defend and win their cases
  • work with People Acting Together in Howard (PATH), joining the Defending Immigrants Team as we seek to prevent hateful acts at the Mall in Columbia and seek to establish safe haven policies in our schools and hospitals
  • establish a rapid response network to witness ICE raids, transmitting the recording to the ACLU, for example
  • ensure that the Howard County Police are properly trained not to ask about immigration status
  • We can do much more

The UU Service Committee says that a sanctuary support congregation signs the sanctuary pledge. It is a sanctuary in all things except hosting. The options for UUCC are: to be a physical sanctuary, which is a stronger statement of our values, who we are and what we stand for, or a sanctuary support congregation. These options should be presented to the congregation for vote on June 4.

Thanks. Please contact me if any questions or comments or want to help at jimcal87@gmail.com

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Immigration Attorney at UUCC this Sunday

Written by Jim Caldiero on .

Washington, D.C. immigration attorney, Anna Marie Gallagher will speak at UUCC Sunday, April 23, between services in room 150 as part our continuing conversation as we prepare to vote to declare UUCC a sanctuary congregation, joining the more than 700 churches. mosques, temples and synagogues and 44 UU congregations that have already done so. Ms. Gallagher represents Mr. Guillermo Daniel Recinos Morales, who was pulled over in his car by ICE agents and is currently being detained in a Frederick County Adult Detention Center. Mr. Recinos, who has no criminal record, crossed the border to escape gangs that firebombed his El Salvador home and is seeking asylum here. Mr. Recinos is the sole breadwinner of his family, now struggling with his detention. Mr. Recinos’ story is being repeated across the country and hearing it will help us as we decide on June 4 to become a sanctuary. After listening to a wonderful musical performance that lifts our spirits, join us as we learn how to lift the spirits of our vulnerable neighbors.

Sanctuary: Laws, Logistics, Emotions

Written by Jim Caldiero on .

During last Sunday's Time for All Ages in the worship service, Robin Slaw told us about a farmer who continually had to reply to events that “It could be good. It could be bad. We’ll see.” As a congregation declaring itself a sanctuary, we might face the same dilemma as that farmer. It could be good. It could be bad. We’ll see. But the overwhelming event for us is that becoming a sanctuary is a statement of who we are, what we stand for. Not only could that be good. It is good.

Laws

Hosting (legally called harboring) an undocumented immigrant is illegal under section 274 of the Immigration and Nationality Act. (It could be bad.) However, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) current stated policy is that churches, schools and hospitals are “sensitive locations” where ICE agents will not enter except in exigent circumstances, for example a threat to national security or the destruction of evidence. (It could be good.) However, policies are subject to change. (It could be bad.) In most situations, ICE still needs a judge-signed warrant to enter any premises. (It could be good.) The last persons to be arrested, prosecuted and convicted of harboring an undocumented immigrant seeking asylum were two nuns in Texas in the 1980’s during the civil unrest in El Salvador. Prosecutions since have related to businesses employing undocumented immigrants. (We’ll see.)

What Is Sanctuary?

Written by Laurie Coltri on .

As I mentioned in a previous post, sanctuary is as old as the Jewish and Christian faiths, sources from which we draw our living tradition. We have begun our congregational conversation about sanctuary, but we ought to be reading from the same page, like this one from an Oregon interfaith coalition.

A sanctuary is…

  • A rapid response to raids, detentions, deportations and the criminalization of immigrants, including undocumented immigrants
  • A strategy to fight individual cases of deportation, to advocate for an end to mass detention and deportation, to amplify the voices of immigrants by telling their stories to our neighbors, our communities and our political leaders
  • A vision for what our world can be, a vision inspiringly described in our seven principles
  • A moral imperative to take prophetic action, of radical hospitality

You can find sanctuary…

  • In places of worship, churches, temples, synagogues, mosques where an individual or family can seek refuge from detention or deportation
  • In the streets, where community networks, hotlines, legal observers, know your rights educators, can intervene or respond to ICE raids
  • On campuses, in cities and counties where there are policies of non-cooperation with ICE, not asking about immigration status (such as advocating with the Howard County Police Department to publish its unwritten policy about not inquiring of immigration status), providing tuition assistance and legal services
  • Everywhere, ending racial, ethnic and religious hatred, discrimination and xenophobia.

Join the conversation Sundays between services in the chapel.

Thanks for participating. For more information, contact Jim Caldiero, jimcal87@gmail.com.

Book drive thanks

Written by Audrey Smith, Coordinator of Missions, St. John Baptist Church on .

I can't thank you enough for the collection of books and your monetary donation of $105.00 towards St. John Baptist Church Book DriveBook drive to help build libraries for children in Nairobi, Kenya and surrounding areas. St. John's goal is to collect 10,000 books and you certainly helped us to kick-off our drive. We are partnering with Bridgeway Community Church and Glen Mar United Methodist Church to collect a total of 50,000 books which will fill a shipping container. Once we raise enough money, the container of books will be shipped to Nairobi, Kenya and the container will be used to create a mobile library that will serve several schools. You might ask why not buy the books in Kenya. Unfortunately, large collections of books are not available to be bought in Kenya.

This effort is in support of Nairobi Chapel's (located in Nairobi, Kenya) "Million Book Drive" to drastically increase the number of books available to the youth in Kenya. 94% of all Kenyan households have zero books for their children to read.

Again, thanks for your help. We really appreciate it.

Worship With Us

April 30 at 9:00am and 11:00am
Intern Minister Anthony Jenkins will preach
More info

General Information:

  • Academic Year: Two identical services at 9am and 11am.  
  • Summer (Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend): One service at 10am.
Location: Owen Brown Interfaith Center (Directions), Sanctuary C, 2nd floor, East end of the building.  Read more about worship.

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