August 7, 2007 marked 40 days from the end of the
2007 Congressional drive for comprehensive immigration reform. During the
week of August 7-14 ICWJ and other
New Sanctuary affiliates across the country recognized this policy failure
as “40 days of darkness”. Biblically, the number 40 is richly
symbolic of the experience of suffering, reconciliation, and liberation.
We call to mind what this reform would have meant for so many families
suffering in fear under our nation’s failed immigration policy. We call
on the prophetic voices of our traditions to speak in a spirit of faith and
New Sanctuary Movement
In partnership with our CLUE California and IWJ affiliates, ICWJ is working with a national effort to highlight the stories of immigrant working families trying to make a better life here in the U.S. Families will share their struggles publicly and local congregations will offer physical, spiritual, or financial sanctuary as they serve witness to the need for immigration policy reform.
Building on a Powerful Tradition
In the early 1980's, thousands of Central American refugees poured into the United States, fleeing life-threatening repression and extensive human rights violations by their governments. At the time, federal immigration policy would have denied the majority political asylum simply because their governments were allies of the U.S. Many of these refugees had actively participated in the liberation theology movement and naturally sought protection from congregations. Many Catholic, Protestant and Jewish congregations and temples responded positively -- offering these refugees social services and advocacy support as well as engaging actively in efforts to change federal immigration policy. These congregations, united under the banner of the Sanctuary Movement, also pledged that they would not reveal the identities of these refugees, even if they were arrested or jailed for doing so.
The Sanctuary Movement was ultimately successful both in changing national policy and in protecting tens of thousands of individuals and families, enabling them to start a new life in the U.S.
Now, over 25 years later, religious leaders across a broad spectrum of denominations from 16 States have come together to begin a New Sanctuary Movement to accompany and protect immigrant families who are facing the violation of their human rights in the form of hatred, workplace discrimination and unjust deportation. We welcome religious leaders, congregations and faith-based organizations of all denominations to join us in this effort.
Changing the Terms of the Debate
At this historic moment, federal legislators are poised to decide on legislation that will bring badly needed reform to our immigration system. However, experts in the field have raised serious questions about whether the political will exists to pass legislation that is both effective and humane. The tide of anti-immigrant sentiment, evident in local punitive legislation efforts, is negatively impacting legislators' commitment and capacity to achieve truly comprehensive and rational reform.
In order for this to change, leaders and sectors that recognize the valuable contributions of immigrants, the importance of respecting their human rights, and the complex dynamics of immigration need to communicate their insights effectively and broadly. The general public needs to see immigrant workers and their families with new eyes; we need to change the terms of the debate.
Interfaith leaders have the capacity to make a unique contribution to the struggle for the human rights of immigrant workers and families. Faith leaders are important guardians of the values and visions of our society. They have the capacity, with effective media support, to significantly influence public opinion. They are also trusted authorities for millions of average Americans. With the right strategy, faith leaders can help change the terms of the debate and create the conditions for comprehensive immigration reform.
There are three goals for this New Sanctuary Movement:
1)To take a united, public, moral stand for immigrant rights
2)To protect immigrants against hate, workplace discrimination and unjust
3)To reveal the actual suffering of immigrant workers and families under
current and proposed legislation to the religious community and the