CWS Joins Nationwide Sanctuary Movement for Immigrants Facing Deportation

September 24, 2014

Laying of hands for a family in sanctuary. Photo: Lamp Left Media/Alonso Parra

Laying of hands for a family in sanctuary. Photo: Lamp Left Media/Alonso Parra

Contact: Sidney Traynham, 703-909-6934,
More information at:

Faith communities across country stand with immigrants despite congressional and administration refusal to offer protection

Press call audio:

WASHINGTON — CWS is part of a rapidly growing nationwide movement to provide physical sanctuary to immigrants and their families facing deportation.   The movement has grown from two churches in Arizona to two dozen congregations promising sanctuary and another 60 faith communities offering support.

This growing movement comes in the wake of the Obama Administration’s announcement of delayed executive action and Congressional failure at immigration reform.

Calling the faith community’s advocacy around the issue “a higher calling” and “a prophetic witness to the nation that we need deferred action from deportation in its broadest form,” the Rev. Noel Andersen, grassroots coordinator with Church World Service said, “The growth and momentum of sanctuary across the country is a result of congregations and immigrant communities working together to confront these broken human-made laws.”

The rapidly growing list of cities with congregations offering and supporting sanctuary includes Boston, Chicago, Denver, Kansas City, New York, Oakland, Portland, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Seattle and Tucson. Physical sanctuary is currently being provided in Phoenix, Tucson, Chicago and Portland.

“Opening the doors of a church or a synagogue or a mosque and declaring sanctuary is a very serious matter. Faith leaders and their congregants do not enter into this decision lightly. But these immigrants and their families are friends and neighbors who have been a part of their communities for decades. They are not strangers; these congregations are answering God’s call to love our neighbor as we love ourselves,” said Anderson.

When the U.S. government failed to follow its refugee laws as people fled the civil wars it fueled in Central America in the 1980s, a small Arizona church made history. It started the Sanctuary Movement, a call to care for “the stranger.” Churches across the country responded, collectively offering sanctuary to thousands of people.

For the first time in 30 years, from the south side of Chicago to a synagogue in Philadelphia, dozens of houses of worship are opening their doors to offer physical sanctuary. Unlike the 80s, today’s immigration crisis calls to mind not the stranger, but the neighbor, with 1,000 deportations every day – mothers and fathers who leave behind family and a community they love.

In a national press teleconference today, Rep. Raúl Grijalva and faith leaders from cities across the country spoke on the growing movement and momentum to stand with immigrants facing deportation.

Rep. Raúl Grijalva of Arizona’s 3rd District, said, “The sanctuary movement is a response to the lack of action. It is a response to the humanity of the issue. And I think it is going to be a cornerstone in pushing the decency of the American people to demand of its elected officials to do something… The sanctuary movement across this country speaks to the moral imperative and the humanity of the issue, which is forgotten in the political discourse that happens around the issue of immigration — where people become numbers, where the consequences of families being divided is minimized, where children fleeing their violence are treated as invaders.”

Rev. Gradye Parsons, the highest elected official in the Presbyterian Church U.S.A., said, “After the President’s announcement on September 6th to, again, delay administrative relief to those at risk of deportation, faith bodies began to question the morality of waiting and bearing the daily loss of our brothers and sisters any longer. And so here we are, at this point in the faith history of this country where congregations intercede by offering sanctuary.”

Rev. Alison Harrington of Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson, said, “In Arizona we have witnessed again and again the destruction of families through inhumane deportation practices. Responding to the commands of our faith to love our neighbors, congregations throughout the state are declaring sanctuary for undocumented individuals like Rosa Robles Loreto who have final orders of deportation. While Arizona has been known as the birth place of anti-immigrant legislation and sentiments, the actions of these congregations are changing that narrative and now Arizona is becoming known as the birth place of a faith-based moment of solidarity and hospitality that we call Sanctuary.”

Rosa Robles Loreto, a Tucson mother and in her 48th day of sanctuary at Southside Presbyterian, said, “My struggle goes further than from my immediate family, and it is a call and a national petition so that others can also have hope and establish their lives here, where we have already lived for so long.”

Rabbi Linda Holtzman of the New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia, said, “As a rabbi on the day before Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, I am deeply grateful that my community can step up to offer physical sanctuary to someone in need. This is the time that Jewish community looks at where we are in life and dedicates itself to working towards greater justice in the New Year. As the children and grandchildren of immigrants, there is no better way for us to build a more just world than by standing with immigrants as someone stood with our grandparents and parents.”

Rev. Julian DeShazier of University Church Chicago said, “Across various faiths, ethnicities and races, here in Chicago, we are compelled to stand arm in arm with the vulnerable until justice is served. Sanctuary is important work for faith communities that seek to expose the inhumanity of our immigration laws. Mass deportations and family separations must end and, if the government won’t accept responsibility, then we will find a way to make a difference by working together with those afflicted and their allies.”

The press call was sponsored by groups including Church World Service, the Presbyterian Church U.S.A., PICO National Network, Philadelphia New Sanctuary Movement and Chicago New Sanctuary Coalition.

Press call audio:

More information at:

Laying of hands for a family in sanctuary. Photo: Lamp Left Media

Laying of hands for a family in sanctuary. Photo: Lamp Left Media

Recent and upcoming sanctuary events across the nation:

Denver: On September 10, a coalition of congregations announced their commitment to provide sanctuary for immigrants facing deportation.

Portland: On September 22, Augustana Lutheran Church declared sanctuary for father and community activist Francisco Aguirre. Groups are planning another press conference for September 25.

Philadelphia: On September 24, the New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia hosted a morning press conference announcing their commitment to provide sanctuary for immigrants facing deportation.

Tucson: On September 24, Tucson congregations are holding a press conference at 12:00PM PDT at the ICE office where a Tucson father will request a stay of removal.

Boston: On September 27, the New Sanctuary Movement of Boston is hosting an Interfaith Summit on Immigrant Justice. On the 28th, the group will lead a vigil at the Suffolk County Jail, which houses ICE detainees.

Chicago: On September 29, Chicago faith leaders will hold a solidarity press conference in support of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Beatriz Ramirez.

Berkeley/Oakland: Sanctuary congregations are planning a launch for October 14.

Contact:  Sidney Traynham, 703-909-6934,