Sanctuary Congregation Basic Facts
Considering becoming a Sanctuary Congregation has resulted in a lot of thought, communication, and pre-planning. As of April 23, 2017, the Sanctuary Committee has had two cottage meetings and two town halls. Here are the top concerns and answers to those concerns that have been addressed by the Sanctuary Committee at these meetings.
If UUCS votes on May 21 to become a sanctuary congregation, we will not begin offering sanctuary until the Sanctuary Committee and Reverend Rick agree that all volunteers are trained and other necessities are in place. The committee is working with several groups supporting undocumented immigrants who face possible deportation; such groups would help supply volunteers.
When we are ready to offer sanctuary, an immigrant’s rights group and its lawyers would contact Reverend Rick regarding an individual who is in imminent danger of being deported and has what would likely be perceived as a winnable case. The length of stay would depend on the individual’s case. It could be anywhere from a few days to a few months, even in some rare cases up to a year. UUCS will offer sanctuary to an individual whose case hopefully can be resolved within a few weeks and or just a few months. A covenant will address the length of time and the daily living needs of the person in sanctuary and will also list expectations related to resolving their immigration/legal status and their behavior while in sanctuary. There will be contact with the media to ensure that sanctuary is visible to the community and seen as an open and transparent process, not one of harboring or concealing.
An individual in sanctuary cannot leave UUCS property from the day sanctuary starts unless: 1) there is a medical emergency that cannot be handled by the volunteer physician (we would call 911 and the individual’s lawyers); 2) the individual has a court date (transportation would be provided by the individual’s lawyer); or the individual chooses to leave. (UUCS’s obligation to offer sanctuary would end and UUCS would notify ICE and other appropriate entities.)
At this time, UUCS would only be able to offer sanctuary to 1 adult at a time. We would need 2 volunteers to be with this individual 24 hours a day, 7 days a week as required by our insurance policy. Two people are needed in order to protect reputations and integrity if any wrongful accusations of misconduct occur.
Due to fire exit regulations that require two exits from any living quarters, the guest will stay in the Minister’s Office. We will likely make some changes to the Janitor’s Closet so the guest can wash up using the sink. Otherwise, we do not intend to incur any expenses making any changes to the building to accommodate having a person living in the building.
Volunteers will be needed to stay with the individual, to provide supplies and food, and laundry service. The Sanctuary committee is working with the Latino Community, the Mennonite Community, and the Quaker Community to organize a network of other faith groups in the Salem area to provide support to the Latino Community. The Sanctuary Committee will use good judgement when accepting volunteers and may ask those that have not had a background check to pay to have one done.
As to other expenses, the utility bill will be affected because of an increase in water and electricity use. All other costs of housing our guests (food, laundry, supplies) will be borne by volunteers. UUCS can still be insured by our insurance company because we are going to be totally transparent.
Our Sunday services should not be any different. We always have visitors and guests. Our guest could join us in worship and for conversation in the fellowship hall or just stay in his/her room if he/she wanted to. The group most affected would be the RE team; Michael Pollard and Sarah Rohrs will meet with them at their team meeting on April 30 to get their input.
The other group affected would be the Kaleidoscope preschool. It is stated in the proposed resolution: “The potential presence of an undocumented person(s) in our facility may require some adaptability and flexibility from staff and Kaleidoscope Preschool, all of whom do support this resolution. Ashley, the manager of Kaleidoscope, will be kept informed so that she can also keep the parents of the preschool children informed.”
This should not affect our non-profit status. We are drawing attention to current unjust, inhumane immigration policies. We will be completely transparent by informing ICE and the public that we will be offering sanctuary to the individual.
ICE can only arrest the individual if they have a valid warrant which includes a signature from a Federal Judge and the name of the individual. Volunteers will be trained to recognize a valid warrant. All volunteers and the individual will have been trained in “knowing your rights” and “Rapid response procedures”.
If for any reason UUCS cannot continue to provide sanctuary for the individual, it will be UUCS’s responsibility to find alternative sanctuary for the individual.
You can also look at the Sanctuary Congregation Project page for information about basic guidelines, and steps to be taken before accepting a guest in sanctuary.