BEYOND THE WALLS: Strengthening Sanctuary

  The following article is adapted from the April issue of St. John’s The Chronicle. In recent months, with the increased focus on immigrant deportation, this has introduced higher levels of uncertainty for many local immigrant families. As a result, at least two groups, Interfaith Works Social Justice Subcommittee and Strengthening Sanctuary Support Group, have begun to look at how faith communities might provide some support to those families. This article is an excellent overview of the issue.

BEYOND THE WALLS:  Strengthening Sanctuary

By Sherry Sullivan
The Strengthening Sanctuary Group started with 7 or 8 concerned members of the local community meeting at CIELO ( this is a local nonprofit which provides services to new immigrants)  in late January to explore the following questions: 

What does it mean for Olympia to be a "Sanctuary City?" 
How can we support immigrants in our community whose lives are impacted by the President's Executive Order and the rapidly developing political scene? 
With each successive meeting the Sanctuary group's numbers grew (it now has over 50 members), and subgroups formed to explore the diverse issues that emerged as we began to answer these basic questions. Two inter-related subgroups emerged first to take the following actions: 

1) Hold "Know Your Rights Workshops," for Spanish-speaking immigrants, facilitated by an immigration attorney and based on the 4th amendment of the Constitution (which declares that everyone living in this country--regardless of immigrat status--has the right to remain silent when questioned by legal authorities).

2) Help families fill out and notarize a "Family Safety Plan" document, drawn up by a group of lawyer allies (LCYC) in Seattle, which names a caregiver (with legal status) for their children in case a parent is sent to detention and deported. Bilingual persons are trained to offer this help. 

These support opportunities are now taking place throughout the South Sound (as well as nationally) --including at St John's, at other churches with Spanish-speaking members, at schools, and at CIELO.

Other subgroups involve research and actions to build and sustain support for affected immigrants within our larger community, focusing on these issues:

·      Learning about law enforcement practices and policy through dialogues with city, county, and state enforcement;

·      Forming emergency first-response networks of people willing to observe and record ICE presence and arrests;

·      Networking with faith communities, including Interfaith Works;

·      Tracking the legislative actions that impact immigrant rights; and

·      Working with high school students to support their outreach, advocacy and organizing activities.

Strengthening Sanctuary is still questioning, exploring, and connecting with like-minded groups throughout the region and the country. You are welcome to attend a meeting and listen for more understanding, or join a group that best fits your interests and abilities. 

Concluding Note: At St. Benedicts, there will be a series of opportunities, in June, between the two services to hear more about CIELO, the issues facing immigrants, and the work of the faith communities who are exploring where and how they might support this work. The schedule will be announced.  KBF