Sanctuary & Immigration Policy

What is this New Sanctuary Movement?

Our vision is that our country treat all people fairly and with dignity, whether they live within or outside of its borders. This vision demands we not remain silent when our government espouses policies that impoverish, exploit, and force people to live in fear. In 1986, Jim Corbett, a Quaker and active participant in the Sanctuary Movement, observed, “individuals can resist injustice, but only in community can we do justice.” As people of faith and people of conscience, we want to resist the Trump Administration’s policy proposals which target and deport millions of undocumented immigrants, and discriminate against marginalized communities. Belong wants to walk along, work with, and help protect and advocate for our friends, families and neighbors to ensure the dignity and human rights of all people. Because the government has said that churches are a "sensitive location" immigration policy is not supposed to be enforced within that space, however, this classification may change at any time. Allowing an undocumented person to live within our church walls, is a way to provide some safety, peace, and time to fight the legal case. Providing sanctuary is also an opportunity to advocate to stop deportations and work toward deferred action at a case-by-case level to keep families together. Working alongside those directly affected by our government's immigration policies, we exemplify the moral imperative to do justice and love mercy.

The New Sanctuary Pledge says: “We acknowledge that the large-­scale immigration of workers and their families to the United States is a complex historical, global and economic phenomenon that has many causes and does not lend itself to simplistic or purely reactive public policy solutions. We stand together in our faith that everyone, regardless of national origin, has basic common rights, including but not limited to:

  1. Livelihood,
  2. Family unity, and
  3. Physical and emotional safety.

We witness the violation of these rights under current immigration policy, particularly in the separation of children from their parents due to unjust deportations, and in the exploitation of immigrant workers. We are deeply grieved by the violence done to families through immigration raids. We cannot in good conscience ignore such suffering and injustice.”

What does providing sanctuary actually mean?

As an act of public witness, the New Sanctuary Movement enables congregations to publicly provide hospitality and protection to a limited number of immigrant families whose legal cases clearly reveal the contradictions and moral injustice of our current immigration system while working to support legislation that would change their situation. These families will be in the deportation process, include citizen children, have adults with good work records and have a potential case under current law. Participating congregations offer a family hospitality for a period of time.

By providing sanctuary, will Belong be violating the law?

Providing sanctuary does not violate the law. Providing sanctuary is not civil disobedience, but is providing safety and shelter to a person in need. Just as a teacher may teach an undocumented student, or a doctor may treat a patient who does not have legal status, we may allow a person with a deportation order to live within our church. The Center for Constitutional Rights maintains that because the family's identity will be public, the congregations will not be violating federal law. However, this argument has never been tested in court. Concealment would be necessary in order to be charged with harboring an undocumented person, however, because we would notify the authorities that an undocumented person is being provided sanctuary, Belong would not be engaging in concealment. Additionally, the crime of transporting an undocumented person could only be charged if the individual driver transported an undocumented person for gain, which no one would be doing. The law says that what is illegal is the very presence of an undocumented person within our national borders. However, every person is a child of God, and we believe just as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Saint Augustine, that "an unjust law is no law at all..."

Planning & Logistics

What legal logistics will need to be considered, before we are able to host an undocumented person?

The core planning team will consider and research what legal questions need to be answered, and how to answer them. Insurance, zoning, and other liabilities will all be thoroughly considered. Belong has the support of the United Methodist Church and other UMC churches have taken in an undocumented person. Beyond legal liabilities within the church building, Belong will work with, research, and provide a legal action plan in the event that we host an undocumented person and government comes knocking.

How many people are needed to successfully be a host congregation? Will Belong have the volunteer capacity to become a host congregation?

As Belong goes through the process of discernment, we do not want to take on more than we can responsibly handle. Belong is encouraged and supported by the other churches in the Denver Metro Sanctuary Coalition. There will be many roles and tasks that need to be filled by dedicated volunteers. Volunteers will need to help with everything from monitoring the locked doors, overnight stays, groceries and meals, to planning events, transportation, and more. The needs will depend on the individual or family that we host, and the needs will likely vary over time. We are not alone in this process and we have the benefit of learning from others who are hosting families!

How many people are needed for the core Sanctuary Planning Team?

The core planning team will require dedicated members to take on 4 main areas:

  1. Volunteer Coordination
  2. Building Logistics
  3. Conceptual Logistics, and
  4. Education and Advocacy.

This team will not be doing all the work, but will be planning and facilitating all the moving parts that will be necessary to successfully host someone or support another church who is hosting someone.

If you are interested in joining this core Sanctuary Planning Team, please email Jes Jones (jesevejones@gmail.com) and indicate if you are interested in education and advocacy; logistics; or volunteer coordination.

If we become a host congregation, will we have resources to pursue our other social justice ACTIVITIES?

Yes. Social justice is not just a thing we do to check it off our list, it is a core value of our Belong Community and it is part of all we do. Belong will continue to seek out ways to "do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly" and to invite you to participate. If you are interested in joining the Social Justice Team, please email Pastor Laura at laurar@belongchurch.org.

Becoming a sanctuary church will cause little or no disruption to our other church events and activities. We will be welcoming a new family into those activities and growing our church community.

What does a host congregation do?

Providing sanctuary is more than hosting a sanctuary seeker. It also means helping with material and spiritual support for the individual and the family. There will be a larger network of individuals and congregations who will not be hosting families but who will be helping Belong as we host someone. While immigration lawyers will be handling the immigration case, we will participate in a public witness and media relations with congregations all over the country who are hosting families. All of the host and support congregations join in an interfaith statement of accompaniment/solidarity lifting up the human rights of immigrant families.

What is the average time frame for being a host church?

If we do decide to host a sanctuary ­seeker in our church, we would host her/him for an initial period of three months. After evaluating the sanctuary relationship, we would decide to either:

  1. Extend the hosting relationship for a minimum of another three months, or
  2. End the sanctuary hosting and assist a transition to another religious organization.

Does Belong have the ability to house people within the church building?

Yes. In fact, from time to time, Belong hosts groups overnight. Usually these groups are youth groups doing mission work on our region, but the basic infrastructure needs are the same. The recent renovations of our building—especially our bathrooms and showers—have been completed in order to more easily facilitate overnight guests.