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Social Justice

Is First Church Called to Offer Sanctuary?

By Kitty Willkomm, co-chair of Immigration Issues Group

Last week, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke to U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents in Nogales, Arizona. “Be forewarned,” he said. “This is a new era. This is the Trump era,” and announced plans to “fight against evil flooding up from Mexico.” Although Sessions was referring to drug cartels and transnational gangs, the crackdown he described focuses on nonviolent offenses. He also told Federal officials to “highlight immigrant crime,” even though research shows that immigrants commit fewer crimes than citizens born in the U.S., and said local officials should be pressured to help enforce immigration laws. He also ordered Federal prosecutors to make immigration a priority.

In response, faith communities across our country are stepping up efforts to support immigrants without green cards or legal status. [quote]As people of conscience, UU’s are called to translate our principles into action and join the movement.[/quote] Our congregation could decide to offer the traditional form of sanctuary. We may, however, find that this path is not the best for our congregation and instead support the movement by advocating for local, state, and national policies that protect due process, support the existence of sanctuary cities/counties and school districts, participating in acts of public witness or protest, or assisting a congregation that has been called to offer physical sanctuary.

Earlier this year, the Reverend Jennifer accompanied group members to Los Voces De La Frontera to meet with the New Sanctuary Movement coordinator. Recently, the group co-chairs met with the church’s Board of Trustees who voted to support moving forward with discernment. The Discernment Team is using the UU Sanctuary Toolkit as a guide and plans to schedule small group meetings with church members in May to gather input and answer questions.

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