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 email@example.com