As the Church of All People, in 2017 we declared that we are a sanctuary church and in 2018 we gave continuity to this ministry. A sanctuary church is a moral, spiritual, psychological, financial and legal support for immigrant people in danger of arrest or deportation. The "physical sanctuary" is the last alternative for a vulnerable family. The sanctuary churches are a project of civil disobedience to denounce unjust and immoral immigration laws. In the context of oppression and marginalization this civil disobedience is a divine mandate. Our Ministry Sanctuary gave, in the context of defying unjust laws, shelter to a Guatemalan family, Amanda and her three children (Dulce, Daniela, and David) in 2017, who were in our church for one year. Although they were relocated on Long Island they are still part of our Sanctuary Ministry.
We have now included family reunification into this ministry, which is a recognized reason for immigration in many countries due to the presence of one or more family members in a given country, therefore, allowing the rest of the divided family or only the specific members of the family can also migrate to that country.
Family reunification laws try to balance the right of a family to live together with the country's right to control immigration. However, how this balance looks, e.g. The family members who can meet differ greatly between countries. It is here that we gave shelter this year 2018 to another family, this time from Honduras: Edin, Isa, Dayani, and Víctor. During the month of December, the youngest brother of Edin, Italo, who is only 15 years old and was in an immigration jail for 9 months, joined us. We finally achieved reunification of the family, now we hope to retain them under political asylum in the United States.
Then we chose to redefine sanctuary to include everyone excluded and oppressed by our sociopolitical and theological system. Hence the fact that from an experimental approach we committed ourselves to open our doors to sisters and brothers of all sexual orientations and gender identities, deaf people, people without a home, and other oppressed and marginalized people. Hence, in the winter of 2017 we turned part of our building into a winter shelter so that sisters and brothers on the Road could sleep, these are people who live on the streets because our democracy failed them. And we also converted another part of the building into a place where during the day people from the community could drop in, talk, rest and at the same time drink coffee or tea and eat something. We follow the biblical mandate: Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God (Proverb 14:31).
Fr. Luis Barrios