Congregations Explore Ways to Help Those at Risk of Deportation

by | Mar 2, 2017

In the wake of raids across the country by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), diocesan congregations are considering options for supporting undocumented immigrants and their communities that range from providing sanctuary on church properties to offering educational events, according to the Rev. Sarabeth Goodwin, the diocese’s Latino missioner.

Calvary Church, Church of the Holy Comforter, St. Alban’s and St. Stephen and the Incarnation in the District, Church of the Ascension in Gaithersburg, St. Matthew/San Mateo in Hyattsville, St. John’s in Mount Rainier, Church of the Ascension in Silver Spring, Grace Church in Silver Spring, and Church of Our Saviour in Silver Spring are among the churches considering ways to support the sanctuary movement, Goodwin said.

One or more of those churches may decide to offer to host an individual or a family, she added.

The sanctuary movement has gathered momentum since the election of President Donald Trump, who campaigned on promises of increased border security and stringent enforcement of the nation’s immigration laws. On February 21, John F. Kelly, the secretary of homeland security, issued new enforcement policies that significantly broaden the categories of undocumented immigrants who are subject to deportation.

“People are at risk in many of our congregations,” said the Rev. Paula Clark, canon for clergy development, multicultural ministries and justice. “Most of us know that people in Latino communities are in danger, but there is great fear in our heavily West African and Caribbean churches as well. This may not be pain we all can see, but you can feel it present in church on Sunday morning.”

Bishop Mariann Budde will lead a diocesan forum on immigration issues on March 28 at 7 p. m. at Church of Our Saviour in the Hillandale section of Silver Spring. Lacy Broemel, refugee and immigration policy analyst for the Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations, an immigration attorney, and representatives of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) and Sanctuary DMV, the leading local sanctuary organization, are scheduled to speak.

“I’ve spent too many years working to help bring sanity and compassion into our nation’s immigration system to accept extreme mandates as the best we can do as a nation,” Budde wrote recently to the diocese. “My heart breaks for those who have lived as contributing members of our communities and churches for years and want nothing more than legal status in this country, who are now afraid to leave their homes for fear of deportation.”

Churches can support undocumented immigrants in numerous ways, Goodwin said, including:

  • Accompanying immigrants to ICE checks or to court. (Immigrants who are accompanied to their hearings are less likely to be deported than those who are not, Goodwin says.)

  • Hosting educational events to brief immigrants on their rights and non-immigrants on how the immigration system and the sanctuary movement work.

  • Forming rapid response teams willing to report from the scene of ICE raids.

(For more information on how to assist immigrants in danger of deportation, watch this video featuring Laura Stump Kennedy of St. Stephen and the Incarnation, who led the workshop on sanctuary issues at the recent Leadership Learning Day. Additional videos on the sanctuary movement and immigrants’ rights are available in Spanish and the immigrants’ rights video is available in English.)

The Rev. Charles Wynder, Jr., priest-in-charge at Holy Comforter in the District, preached on the sanctuary movement on Sunday with the ambassador of St. Lucia and the diplomatic corps of several Caribbean countries including Haiti, Barbados, and Grenada in attendance. Wynder, who is also missioner for social justice and advocacy engagement for the Episcopal Church, told Clark that the diplomatic community from the Caribbean is concerned about U. S. immigration issues.

“This will be a group we will be working cooperatively with as we get our arms around sanctuary,” Clark said.

Locally, Sanctuary DMV and the PICO National Network  have been “the motors” behind the sanctuary movement, Goodwin said. A meeting led by PICO on February 13 drew 240 people from 90 congregations—four of them Episcopal—to All Souls’ Unitarian Church in the District. “That meeting included small group conversations according to geographical locations and some decisions were made about how to work collaboratively to stand with our immigrant brothers and sisters in the coming days,” Goodwin said.

One third of the churches at the meeting committed to supporting the sanctuary movement in some way, she added.

The next meeting about sanctuary will be held on March 13 at 7 p. m. at All Souls Unitarian, 1500 Harvard St NW, in the District, Goodwin said. Newcomers are welcome.