DACA and the Meaning of Sanctuary

The politics around immigration continue to challenge us to defend the value of a pluralistic America and our dreams for the Beloved Community. This week Attorney General Jeff Sessions visited Portland to berate us as a “Sanctuary City” and to beg us to stop being “the trafficker, smuggler or gang member’s best friend.”

At issue is whether our police will help enforce US immigration laws. Oregon’s position has been clear since 1987 when state law made such enforcement by local police illegal. Oregon was the first “Sanctuary State.” In March of this year, the Portland City Council affirmed that position by naming Portland a Sanctuary City. And despite our President’s threats, a federal judge has blocked federal moves to punish sanctuary cities by withholding federal funds.

Ironically, progressive states and communities now find themselves embracing the doctrine of “state’s rights.”

Sanctuary is an important religious concept, having to do with both safety and sanctity. Many of us think of providing sanctuary primarily as the decision by a church (or other house of worship) to shelter an undocumented person or family so that they cannot be deported. That kind of religious witness is still sometimes needed, but rarely today. The more pressing need now is for support for our undocumented neighbors as they navigate the immigration system and its impact, resistance to the flagrant abuses that are rife in that system and advocacy to get that system changed.

We are a sanctuary church. We would certainly consider hosting a family if that were requested. But the “ask” is for our advocacy and support today, and that we freely and enthusiastically provide.

Our Immigrant Justice Action Group is leading our effort. There is far more to share with you about their work and our work together than a blog post can hold. There will be opportunities for all of us to work and witness on this issue this fall. I want you to know that our Social Justice Council has chosen Sanctuary as their theme this year and that I will be preaching on Sanctuary in November.

Today, however, our support and our resources are urgently needed. The Trump Administration has promised to end DACA, (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) unless Congress specifically makes it law within six months.

Many young Dreamers (individuals who came to the US with their undocumented parents) are eligible to renew their Dreamer status during this six month period, but the DACA application has a $500 fee, which many of these individuals cannot afford. Round-ups and deportations are already threatened.

Our immigration justice partners ask us to raise funds so that no person will be prevented from applying for their extension here in Oregon due to lack of money.

Time is of the essence, as applicants have only until October 5
to submit their applications and pay the fee. On-line donations need to be received by Friday, September 22 (http://oregondacacoalition.org). You can also go to the Immigrant Justice table in our newly renovated Fuller Hall after either service this Sunday to make a contribution to help cover the financial commitments already made for this scholarship fund. Our Immigrant Justice Action Group will get cash and checks delivered by Monday.

Our vision for the Beloved Community does not include deporting individuals brought here as young children, who know only this country, who have played by all the rules. Any Beloved Community worthy of the name welcomes these individuals and celebrates the gifts they offer.