Sponsorship of Asylum-Seeking Immigrants
In response to the hostility and injustice aimed at immigrants to this nation, The Community Church created our Sanctuary and Immigrant Support Ministry. Last year, after a lengthy period of self-education and discernment, our congregation voted overwhelmingly to become an official Sanctuary Congregation. As such, we pledge to open our hearts and our church to poor and oppressed people who come to our borders seeking survival, safety and well-being. Our mission extends to people needing church sanctuary to avoid deportation, refugees in need of emergency housing assistance, and asylum-seekers, who arrive from Latin America and elsewhere seeking asylum due to the extreme dangers they face in their home countries.
The Manse (former parsonage) has been refitted to house immigrants.
Our church campus includes an old minister’s residence or manse which is located in a secluded space. In recent years, it had fallen into disrepair. We have worked long and hard to clear out, clean up and repair this structure to make it a habitable and welcoming space for immigrants in need of housing and other supports to avoid deportation. In January of this year we completed this work and announced to the larger community our readiness to receive an immigrant into sanctuary.
Concurrently, another related and urgent need surfaced. Individuals fleeing Central America to seek asylum in the United States are in desperate need of safe options as they wind their way through the asylum processes. Because of the backlog of cases, asylum seekers are waiting a year or more before their asylum determination hearing. Escalating stresses on the system suggest the backlog may grow dramatically in the coming months and years. Those seeking asylum cannot enter the U. S. until they have a sponsor; the sponsor or a surrogate is required to pay the bond that must be posted before the immigrant can be released to the sponsor. Often there are no family members available or able to fulfill the related responsibilities, which are considerable. Beyond the bond are the burdens of adding another person to a household when the new addition is not allowed to work for at least five months after arrival. Churches are beginning to mobilize to meet the needs of those awaiting asylum.
In April, our Sanctuary and Immigrant Support Ministry determined that we could best use our physical and human resources by making ourselves available to someone in the slow pipeline of asylum determination. After contacting a church-affiliated “matching” organization, we were put in contact with lawyers working at the southwest border near San Diego, California. We were matched with a 21-year-old female asylum-seeker from El Salvador who, since November, 2018, was held in detention in California awaiting a sponsor. At her bond hearing on May 15th, her appearance bond was set at $5,000 of which Community Church has paid $2,000, plus transportation to North Carolina. She arrived with few clothes, no personal hygiene products, no English language skills and genuine gratitude that she has found a community to welcome and support her.
Our current guest goes through a bike safety check with a church volunteer.
Meeting the bail and plane fare expenses has been burdensome. Ongoing costs are considerable and include housing, medical and dental care, clothing and personal care needs, food and transportation, acculturation experiences including language classes and safety. We are writing this request to help defray these costs and to maximize the help that we can provide. We have already been asked to take in a second asylum-seeker, and in May we had a refugee from Cuba who stayed with us for four weeks. We are hopeful that once we have secured adequate funds to afford the needs of our current resident, we will be able to meet the needs of additional immigrants.
Steering Committee session.
Building Sanctuary in Madison, WI
Faithify Project Description
This past November, James Reeb Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Madison, Wisconsin voted overwhelmingly to support the New Sanctuary Movement by becoming a host site for an immigrant facing deportation. To answer this call of witness and action, we will need to convert part of a large multipurpose room at the rear of our church into a guest room, install a shower in an existing bathroom, and make other renovations to conform to local codes. A professional architect from our congregation has drawn up plans and solicited construction bids. We expect the cost for the entire project to reach up to $30,000. Our Sanctuary Leadership Team at James Reeb is seeking small grants and also planning fundraising events to generate the rest of the funds necessary to complete the project.
We are not alone in this endeavor! James Reeb belongs to the Dane Sanctuary Coalition, which organizes congregations and organizations to provide physical sanctuary to our immigrant friends and neighbors at risk of deportation. We do this as part of the national New Sanctuary Movement.
There are currently seven congregations (at four sites) that offer sanctuary in Madison. Two are Unitarian Universalist, two United Church of Christ (UCC), one Lutheran, one Mennonite and one Jewish. (James Reeb is the only potential hosting site on the east side of Madison.) A dozen other congregations and several other community organizations offer other forms of support. Plymouth Congregational UCC, our neighbor on Madison’s east side, is also partnering with us on this project. We all continue to take our lead from two local organizations, Voces de la Frontera and Centro Hispano.
Our coalition opposes mean-spirited, cruel and immoral immigration policies that terrorize communities and violate human rights. Our faith teaches us that all people have inherent worth and dignity and that everyone deserves to live free from violence and deprivation. When our government tears apart families, executes unarmed immigrants, and sends refugees into the hands of their persecutors, we find ourselves compelled to act. This vision impels us to stand together in solidarity with our immigrant and refugee friends and neighbors, to offer our support and help, and to provide Sanctuary to those in need. We invite you to join us in this work! Please donate generously to our Sanctuary building fund.
Help Us Build Sanctuary
In April of 2017, the congregation of the First Unitarian Church of Providence, Rhode Island voted overwhelmingly to become a Sanctuary Church. In the months since then, we have been hard at work creating a space, making community connections and coming up with a plan for how we will carry this out. We are currently the only church in RI we know of close to being ready to offer sanctuary.
Extra seating doubles as a sleeping area for family.
One of the final hurdles we face in being ready to take in a guest is to install a shower in our building. This is why we are launching this campaign. We need to raise money to install our shower, replace the current sink and plumbing in the room, add a countertop to the kitchen area, and install a lock on the door. These items will make our sanctuary space feel like a home away from home for the guest or family who seeks our help. Can you help us meet our fundraising goal of $7,500.00?
If for some reason we are not able to fulfill our goal of becoming a sanctuary church, we will donate any unused funds to another sanctuary project in our area.
This journey we are embarking on is filled with uncertainty, but as Unitarian Universalists, we feel called to stand with and support those in our community who are vulnerable to unjust deportation. We feel called to resist those who would break up families and communities based on discrimination, fear, and hate. We thank you for considering our call to help.