Maxwell Street has always been on the forefront of work with refugees – housing numerous families from various crisis points in the world, finding shelter and clothing and food for families new to America, and most of all becoming friends with refugees as they learned about America and moved into citizenship. Church member Babs Kleine served as the director of Kentucky Refugee Ministries for years. Church members Lucy Raine, Megan Hensley, and Robby Lear have all worked on the staff at KRM. Woody Berry and Lynn Schrader have served on the Board of KRM for well over a decade, with Lynn serving as Chair of the Board most of those years. Our support for helping refugees is well grounded at Maxwell Street.
But looking at the issue of Sanctuary is something different.
It began in the 1980s when civil wars in Nicaragua, Guatemala, and El Salvador resulted in an influx in asylum seekers fleeing violence in those countries.
In 2014, with an escalation of deportations under the Obama administration, the Sanctuary network was revived to bring attention to a broken immigration system. Churches once again took a stand against an unjust system that tears families apart and forces the 11 million undocumented people in the US, a majority of whom have lived in the US for more than 10 years and contribute billions to the economy and in taxes yearly, to live in fear as second class citizens. In particular, the network wanted to highlight the need of comprehensive immigration reform that would offer these immigrants a pathway to citizenship. The Dream Act was one of the most significant changes from that immigration reform.
With the 2016 election and the beginning of the Trump administration, there came a promise to detain and deport millions of immigrants, often incarcerating people four years or more before hearings and trials could be held. The Sanctuary movement began anew with people wanting to intervene in order to prohibit people from being held for years without trials.
The idea for studying this issue did not come from the pastors, nor the Session, but from within the congregation, from people who wanted to learn more and decide together what would be good actions for us either as a church, or as individual members of the church, in order to help people stuck in an immigration system that needs to be better at representing the ideals upon which our nation is based.
Five groups have been formed to research the five questions that will help us decide what to do. You are invited, and needed, to participate in those groups, to help bring good education to the rest of the congregation. The people who have volunteered to head up each area do not come with ready-made answers, but with the desire to gather information and do what is best. Please offer your help to the leaders named below.
The attachments below each numbered item are suggested readings.
Let’s decide together.
- Definition/Purpose (Jody Lambert & Carol Jordan)
Definition from Sanctuary Church Task Force, Highland Baptist Church, Louisville:
What is a “sanctuary church?”
According to Groundswell (Auburn Seminary), Sanctuary is when faith communities offer safe havens — and they’ve been doing that from the beginning of the Old Testament, to the times of slavery and the Underground Railroad, to housing Jews during WWII, to the draft during the Vietnam War. In fact, Sanctuary 2014 was inspired by a church in Arizona that successfully kept a family together this year (more on that below). That church — Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson — actually founded the official Sanctuary Movement in the USA 30 years ago.
The Latin word sacer , meaning “holy,” and the related word sānctus , also meaning “holy,” give us the roots sacr and sanct. A sanctuary is a holy place. Anything sacred is holy.
In speaking with Rev. Fife (Southside Presbyterian) and other leaders in what’s now called the “new sanctuary” movement, the task force has discovered that many congregations are expanding their view of sanctuary. While it still may mean housing individuals in a type of “underground railroad,” it has become a broader exploration of how a faith community can engage in acts of love, welcome, and justice to all people.
In scripture there is little (if at all) distinction between the terms refugee, alien, immigrant, etc.–with many biblical translations using the same interchangeably.
A person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster. According to the UN, more people were forcibly migrated from their homes in in 2016 than at any time in human history, and 2017 is expected to break that record due to continued violence and depletion of resources due to climate change.
A person in a similar or identical situation to a refugee but who is unable to wait the years it takes to go through the formal refugee process. They seek the protection of a country (like the U.S.) because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution. Only about 7% of asylum cases are approved without an attorney.
A foreign-born person who does not have legal permission to be in the United States normally because they crossed a border without authorization at some juncture or overstayed a visa. Because laws haven’t been updated in decades, each individual’s case can be complex and for most there is no legal path to immigrate and no legal way to work, obtain government ID (in the case of KY), etc. There are many misconceptions about this population.
A “sanctuary city” is a name given to a city in the United States that follows certain procedures that shelters undocumented immigrants. The term most commonly is used for cities that do not permit municipal funds or resources to be applied in furtherance of enforcement of federal immigration laws.
What wisdom does the Bible and our theological heritage offer on this subject?
The Hebrew word ger, which is the closest word to our concept of immigrant, appears 92 times in the Old Testament alone. While the most commonly cited passage dealing with welcoming the immigrant is from Matthew 25: 31-40, other passages reveal Christ himself as a young immigrant who at an early age fled to Egypt without asking permission to relocate from a governing authority. Below is a brief overview of some of the most prominent scriptural references on this subject.
Ruth 2:11–12 – But Boaz answered her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law … how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. May the Lord reward you for your deeds, and may you have a full reward from the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge!’ Genesis 3:22-24 – Adam and Eve are forced out of the Garden. Genesis 7 and 8 – Noah builds an ark and takes refuge from the flood. Genesis 12:1 – The call of Abram: “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” Genesis 12:10 – “Now there was a famine in the land. So Abram went down to Egypt to reside there as an alien, for the famine was severe in the land.” Genesis 19 – Lot takes his family and flees Sodom. Genesis 23 – Abraham is a stranger and an alien in the land of Canaan. Genesis 46:1-7 – Jacob moves his family to Egypt to escape the famine and reunite with Joseph. Genesis 47: 1-6 – Joseph brings his brothers to Pharaoh and they are welcomed and given jobs. Exodus 1:8-14 – Joseph’s generation is gone, and the Egyptians oppress the Israelites. “Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor.” Exodus 1:15-2:10 – Pharaoh orders all the Hebrew boy babies to be killed, but Moses is hidden and is saved by Pharaoh’s daughter. Exodus 12:37-39 – The Israelites were driven out of Egypt so fast they had no time to make provisions and had to bake unleavened cakes of bread. Exodus 12:49 and Leviticus 24:22 – “There shall be one law for the native and for the alien who resides among you.” Exodus 22:21 – Moses gives God’s law: “You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien; for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.” Leviticus 19:9-10 and 23:22 – Moses gives God’s law: “You shall not strip your vineyards bare…leave them for the poor and the alien.” Leviticus 19:33-34 and 24:22 – When the alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 24:23 – Moses receives God’s law: “With me you are but aliens and tenants.” Numbers 9:14 and 15:15-16 – “…you shall have one statute for both the resident alien and the native.” Numbers 35 and Joshua 20 – The Lord instructs Moses to give cities of refuge to the Levites so that when the Israelites must flee into Canaan they may have cities of refuge given to them. Deuteronomy 1:16 – “Give the members of your community a fair hearing, and judge rightly between one person and another, whether citizen or resident alien.” Deuteronomy 6:10-13 – The people of Israel are made aware that the land had come to them as a gift from God and they were to remember that they were once aliens. Deuteronomy 10:18-19 – “For the Lord your God…loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Deuteronomy 14:28-29 and 26:12-13 – Tithing was begun, in part, for resident aliens. Deuteronomy 24:14 – “You shall not withhold the wages of poor and needy laborers, whether other Israelites or aliens who reside in your land…” Deuteronomy 24:17-18 – “You shall not deprive a resident alien…of justice.” Deuteronomy 24:19-22 – Leave sheaf, olives, grapes for the alien. Deuteronomy 26:5 – A wandering Aramean was my ancestor… Deuteronomy 27:19 – “Cursed be anyone who deprives the alien…of justice.” I Chronicles 22:1-2 – Aliens were important in building the temple. I Chronicles 29:14-15 – David praises God: “We are aliens and transients before you…” II Chronicles 2:17-18 – Solomon took a census of all the aliens and assigned them work. Psalm 105 – Remembering their sojourn: “When they were few in number, of little account, and strangers in it, wandering from nation to nation, from one kingdom to another people,…” Psalm 137:1-6 – “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down and wept…How could we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” Psalm 146:9 – “The Lord watches over the strangers…” Ecclesiastes 4:1 – “Look, the tears of the oppressed—with no one to comfort them.” Isaiah 16:4 – Be a refuge to the outcasts of Moab. Jeremiah 7:5-7 – “If you do not oppress the alien…then I will dwell with you in this place…” Jeremiah 22:3-5 – Do no wrong or violence to the alien. Ezekiel 47:21-22 – The aliens shall be to you as citizens, and shall also be allotted an inheritance. Zechariah 7:8-10 – Do not oppress the alien. Malachi 3:5 – The messenger will bear witness against those who thrust aside the alien. Matthew 2:13-15 – Jesus and parents flee Herod’s search for the child. Matthew 5:10-11 –“Blessed are those who are persecuted.” Matthew 25:31-46 – “…I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”
Luke 4:16-21 – “…Bring good news to the poor…release to the captives…sight to the blind…let the oppressed go free.” Romans 12:13 – “Mark of the true Christian: “…Extend hospitality to strangers…” II Corinthians 8:13-15 – “It is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need…” Ephesians 2:11-22 – “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God.” Hebrews 11 – “By faith Abraham…set out for a place…not knowing where he was going.” Hebrews 13:1-2 – “…show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels…”
I John 3:18 – “…Let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.”
Definition from Sanctuary not Deportation:
What is Sanctuary?
An Ancient Tradition of Faith Communities
Sanctuary is one of the most ancient traditions that we have as a people of faith. The ancient Hebrew people had allowed temples and even whole cities to declare themselves places of refuge for persons accused of a crime they may not have committed, a practice that allowed those wrongfully accused to escape swift and harsh retribution until the matter could be resolved. In the late Roman Empire fugitives could find refuge in the precincts of Christian churches. Later, during the medieval period churches in England were recognized sanctuaries, offering safe haven for a temporary period to accused wrong doers. In the United States the first practical provision of anything like sanctuary occurred in the years before the Civil War. The Underground Railroad came into being to help slaves flee the South and find safety in many congregations throughout the country. Sanctuary is about providing safe space to those who are victims of unjust laws.
The Sanctuary Movement in the 1980s
When refugees from the Civil Wars in Central America began to flee to the United States in the 1980’s, the U.S. government did not recognize them as political refugees. Many were deported and received by death squads upon their return. From this dire injustice, the Sanctuary Movement was born. It peaked with over 500 congregations establishing an underground railroad whereby refugees move through the United States to safe houses and safe congregations. Many clergy in the Tucson area were indicted and eventually acquitted for their involvement in assisting Central American refugees. The Sanctuary
Movement sought to remind the United States government of its own asylum and refugee laws, which they were not following when it came to the refugees of Central America.
Current Day Sanctuary Movement
Drawing on this tradition, communities of faith have once again seen the need to declare Sanctuary for immigrants as the rise of deportations continues to separate families. In the 1980’s we were compelled by the call to welcome the stranger, as we opened our doors to newly arriving refugees. Now we are moved by the call to love our neighbors as ourselves, as those who are entering into Sanctuary are most often long term members of our communities – our neighbors. In 2007, an initiative known as the New Sanctuary Movement took shape with coalitions of congregations in major cities throughout the country. As work place and neighborhood raids escalated, these congregations opened their doors to provide refuge to those facing deportation.
The New Sanctuary Movement helped win the Morton Memo and Prosecutorial Discretion in 2011 and President Obama’s Executive Actions on Immigration in 2014, which has helped stop thousands of deportations through case-by-case advocacy. Those entering sanctuary are generally eligible for Prosecutorial Discretion, but local ICE field offices have been very reluctant to offer this relief from deportations in which the community has had to engage in public advocacy to win stays of removal or an order of supervision and in most cases. With a Trump Administration we could potentially lose these victories, so we must work together to advocate and fight to keep prosecutorial discretion guidelines where community members can still win a stay of removal and be able to keep united with their families while having the opportunity to get a work permit and drivers license.
Executive Actions on Immigration
After countless actions, vigils, prayer services and even civil disobedience as a prophetic witness the Obama Administration set forth the Executive Actions on Immigration on November 20th, 2014 that would benefit 5 million undocumented people. This was a huge victory for the immigrants’ rights movement. As expected, our opponents hit back hard attacking the President’s announcement, attempting to move legislation against Executive Action (which failed to pass) and 26 Republican Governors filed a lawsuit in Texas. The judges ruled according to partisan lines and enjoined the Executive Actions that would expand Deferred Action. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court, but there were only 8 justices and so the decision on DAPA was tied 4-4 meaning it went back to the lower court decision and DAPA was never put into affect. The Trump Administration has promised to rescind Executive Actions of President Obama, and so these Prosecutorial Discretion guidelines are expected to change.
Suggested Background Book on Sanctuary:
SANCTUARY: A Story of American Conscience and the Law in Collision September, 1988
focusing on the 1980’s Sanctuary movement, not the current one
- Legal Issues (Marilyn Daniel & Tom Dixon)
Legal Issues from Sanctuary Church Task Force, Highland Baptist Church, Louisville:
In our research, we were unable to find a church that has ever lost its tax-exempt status for becoming a sanctuary congregation. Courts have fairly consistently ruled that people “harboring” immigrants shouldn’t fear the law, but prosecution over such matters is ever-changing. There is currently a split in the Federal Circuit Courts of Appeal, wherein some suggest that simple sheltering is considered “harboring.” INA Section 274 (referring to “harboring”) carries with it a potential fine and federal imprisonment of up to 5 years. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is now the person who will make decisions around criminal prosecution of individuals and it is unknown and difficult to predict what the he and the Trump administration might do. It is not against the law, however, to provide humanitarian aid to anyone. Even if it were, theological and biblical principles should be considered (see below). While companies can be fined for knowingly hiring undocumented immigrants, selling, renting, and otherwise doing business with undocumented immigrants, refugees (or specific visa-holders, etc.) is both common and legal.
While there are some laws concerning harboring someone who is in violation of that law (generally state-by-state), they normally only apply to those intentionally hiding someone who has been charged with a crime or for whom there is a warrant for arrest. Therefore, most sanctuary churches would not be in violation because they are all publicly calling on the government to rectify the final order of deportation of the person living in sanctuary. Still, laws on “harboring” could shift and even under current law, congregations should consult with attorneys on a regular basis.
The Task Force consulted with Church World Service (CWS). As of March 2017, CWS attorneys are recommending that congregations, should it be in-line with their theology and mission, consider declaring sanctuary for all immigrants (or even a broader community)–not just those who may be living in the United States without the proper immigration documents. According to CWS, this could reduce a congregation’s liability and therefore is the language this Task Force recommends.
While incredibly unlikely and completely unprecedented in the case of being a “sanctuary for immigrants,” should Highland Baptist Church ever lose its tax-exempt status for any reason, the consequence is that donations/tithes given to the church would not be able to be taken off on church-member’s taxes. Additionally, the church may eventually be charged for local property taxes as a corporation would.
Finally, for context it is also important to understand that being in the country without proper documentation (what some would call “illegally”) is not a crime. While the act of crossing a border or overstaying one’s visa is a civil (not a criminal) offense, mere existence somewhere is not an offense.
Information on reasons church could lose its 501c status
Article written by Marilyn Daniel:
DACA: Safe or not?
Many Maxwell Streeters are familiar with the DACA program, established in 2012. DACA is the acronym for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. It is a process in the Department of Homeland Security for young people who were brought into the United States without documents before they were 16 years of age. Those who meet the eligibility criteria can apply for a work permit and work legally in the United States for a two-year period. They can apply to renew every two years. They remain deportable, but their deportation is “deferred” while the program exists during their approved periods of time. About 800,000 young people have been approved under DACA.
This program was created by Executive Order to be a temporary bridge to a more permanent program to be created by legislative action: the Dream Act. However, Congress never passed the Dream Act. President Trump initially provided assurances that the program would continue under his administration. Some of you wrote letters months ago to request that he take that position. And some of you have met Sophia, a DACA recipient, who has worked as the Legal Assistant at the Maxwell Street Legal Clinic. Sophia is currently working on her Master’s in Social Work and has been admitted to the University of Louisville Law School this fall.
So, the fate of DACA has become close and personal for some of us. There have been three recent developments on this issue. A group of state Attorneys-General recently threatened to sue the federal government to force President Trump to terminate the program and proceed to deport these 800,000 young people. Senator Lindsey Graham has prepared legislation called the Bridge Act to stop that from happening. And there has been recent discussion of presenting the Dream Act to Congress once again; this would be a permanent resolution of the status of these young people. No one knows what will happen, but the uncertainty is causing anxiety throughout the immigrant community.
Article: Could Our Church Lose Tax-Exempt Status for Offering Sanctuary to Undocumented Immigrants?
Churches and other houses of worship in the United States are ordinarily exempt from paying taxes under Section 501(c)(3) of the tax code, having complied with various legal requirements such as registering with their states as nonprofit organizations.
In order to maintain their nonprofit (tax-exempt) status, however, a church’s activities must be limited. In particular, the church (which term we’ll use generically here) must refrain from straying too far into activities outside its mission, and must not break the law. What does that mean for churches that wish to offer sanctuary to undocumented immigrants?
While churches have a long tradition of offering sanctuary to immigrants who are fleeing difficult situations and finding a cold reception in the United States, the issue has taken on immediate urgency as the administration of Donald J. Trump has embarked upon efforts to deport virtually all undocumented immigrants within the U.S., without regard for traditional enforcement priorities—which formerly emphasized focusing on criminal aliens rather than those with community connections and family ties.
Article: Is Providing Sanctuary to Undocumented Immigrants Illegal?
Federal law prohibits anyone from concealing, harboring, or shielding from detection any alien who is in the U.S. in violation of the law. (See the Immigration and Nationality Act at I.N.A. Section 274(a)(1)(A)(iii).) Even those who conspire with regard to or aid or abet any of the above are in violation of this law. Such violations are considered crimes, and potentially subject the perpetrator to fines and prison time.
One bit of good news for anyone offering sanctuary out of a sense of moral obligation: The possible imprisonment period is reduced for those whose violation was NOT for financial gain; from ten years to five. But there is no actual, explicit exemption for churches and such.
Article: How Does Conducting Illegal Activity Impact a Nonprofit’s Status?
Typically, when one looks into types of illegal activity that can put a nonprofit’s status at risk, the discussion focuses on actions that profit private individuals. This is not such a situation. Nevertheless, the IRS can revoke the tax exemption of a charitable organization that engages in any behavior that is illegal or violates public policy. Because tax exemption can be considered a sort of government subsidy, the government has every interest in not extending those subsidies to illegal activity.
What’s more, many of the court opinions dealing with nonprofit status (or the loss thereof) emphasize that nonprofits’ tax exemption is partly justified by the role they play in reducing burdens on the government by providing public benefits. It follows that working directly against the government doesn’t put the nonprofit in a strong legal position.
Nevertheless, there’s a legal distinction to be made between a nonprofit whose primary purpose is to conduct illegal activity—to use a common example, running a school for pickpockets—and one that engages in some illegal activity in addition to acting in accordance with its mission. The former is a much more direct path to loss of tax exemption (or failure to gain it in the first place). It’s unlikely that any church could be accused of existing solely to offer sanctuary to undocumented immigrants (unless it was formed in direct response to Trump’s immigration-related orders).
In the case of a church that spends some of its efforts on illegal activity, the question becomes whether that activity is truly “substantial” relative to the nonprofit’s other work. The criteria for measuring this include how serious the offense is, how deeply involved the organization’s officers and directors are, and how much time and attention the organization devotes to the illegal activity. If a church’s entire focus switched to providing sanctuary at the expense of its normal activities, that could be a problem for its maintaining tax exemption.
Article: Is the IRS Likely to Go After Churches That Offer Sanctuary?
The IRS is under-resourced as it is, so the extent to which it will take action against—or even notice—churches that offer sanctuary is questionable. Historically, the IRS has taken action against some churches that offered sanctuary, specifically in the 1980s when war in Latin America created a rush of asylum seekers. But that was decades ago, so it’s difficult to draw a message from it.
Also, if law enforcement officials haven’t themselves taken action against your church, the IRS is not supposed to rush to make its own conclusions about what is or isn’t illegal behavior.
One area of concern might be who, exactly, your church ends up harboring—a law-abiding family versus a known criminal or terrorist, for example. Some experts recommend developing a screening policy so that sanctuary is available only to those who pass your stated criteria. A lawyer can help craft this document and otherwise analyze the level of risk that your church is taking on by offering sanctuary to undocumented immigrants.
- Caring for People (Ed & Mary Iwamoto)
from Ed & Mary Iwamoto: List of Possible Cares, second draft 8/7/17
To be determined: #of guests; costs; support team; time frame
Apartment, on-site or off-site
# Bedrooms, # Bathrooms, dining, living areas, bureaus, closets, storage
Privacy, locks, deadbolts
Grounds access, playground, safety
TV, internet, mobile phone
Utilities, gas, electric; electrical outlet safety (toddlers)
Dining cookware, dishes, utensils, appliances
Cleanup, refuse disposal
Spring, summer, fall and winter clothing allowance
Vehicle: registration, fuel allowance, insurance
School (and supplies allowance)
Job, job seeking
Doctors, dentist, eye care
Shopping, groceries, clothing
Medical, dental, ophthalmology, optometry
Accidents while under care
Within the U.S.
Outside the U.S.
Relatives outside the U.S.
Suggestions from Sanctuary not Deportation:
Ideally, the family will have space on the grounds of the house of worship that will not be used for any other purpose for the duration of Sanctuary. They should be encouraged to arrange the room in whatever way they would like and to make it as much like home as they can. Easy access to showers, bathrooms, and a kitchen should be considered in designating a space for the family (sometimes showers will need to be configured in some way for those locations without permanent showers). Because the entire purpose of declaring Sanctuary is to keep a family together, the entire family is invited to stay at the house of worship. While the individual living in Sanctuary does not leave the premises, the family comes and goes as they choose. At times visitors and media can overwhelm the family. They should be encouraged to establish whatever boundaries they need. It is the practice of immigration officials and law enforcement agencies to respect the sanctity of houses of worship by not coming on their property for the purpose of apprehending an individual who has an order of deportation. It is possible that under the Trump Administration we will see the need to house many undocumented people at once or that allies will have to go to where an enforcement action is happening to try and block that deportation.
- Experiences of Other Sanctuaries (Jim & Linda Niemi)
CBS 60 Minutes
About Sanctuary Churches
Stand Up and Be Counted
1000 Congregations Strong for Sanctuary
Sanctuary Movement Toolkit
Blog about Sanctuary
Methodist statement on Sanctuary
Video: How to Become a Sanctuary Congregation (Pacific School of Religion)
Unitarian Church resources on sanctuary
Sojourners Immigration Toolkit
- Other Options (Betty Gabehart)
Option from Sanctuary Church Task Force, Highland Baptist Church, Louisville:
In the research of this Task Force, we have discovered that a number of faith-based communities are supporting physical “sanctuary” outside of their places of worship. Some congregations are organizing initiatives of families/individuals within their church willing to house other families/individuals in their own home should the need arise. Congregations like Union Church in Berea, KY are overseeing a process of connecting local college students who are immigrants or otherwise members of vulnerable communities with allies at the church in order to provide a support network for them in the local community–serving as a trusted pipeline to those who may be housed.
We Choose Welcome, An Action Guide
published by Presbyterian Church (USA) in June, 2017
an action guide for considering “Sanctuary”