What is CityWell’s Political Message in
Offering Sanctuary to Samuel?
While acknowledging that US immigration involves a profoundly complex set of questions, the leadership at CityWell has discerned that many of our nation’s current immigration policies are deeply incongruent with biblical commands regarding the treatment of immigrants. As a United Methodist Church, we stand under and with the position on immigration found in the United Methodist Church’s Social Principles, and this statement from the 2016 Book of Resolutions.
CityWell’s decision to offer sanctuary arises from the conviction that Samuel’s particular immigration situation is a matter of profound injustice resulting from the indiscriminate deportation policies of our current presidential administration. Under this new application of our nation’s laws, immigration authorities have been largely stripped of discretionary power to consider the particular merits of any particular case. In 2014, when Samuel was detained for crossing the border illegally (see Samuel’s story here), immigration authorities did have the discretion to weigh Samuel’s case, and because of Julia’s (his wife) medical condition and his US-born son, Samuel was granted a stay of deportation, a social security card, a driver’s license, and a work permit. He was released from detention with the only condition being an annual renewal of his work permit. Samuel has been faithful to this process. This year however, in spite of not having any criminal record, and in spite of faithful adherence to immigration processes, when Samuel appeared before the immigration authorities to for permit renewal, he was told that he had done nothing wrong, but that the rules had changed; because of new constraints from the Trump administration, Samuel had been flagged as a criminal who must be immediately deported (the criminal record flagged was his 2014 conviction for entering the country illegally). As leaders at CityWell, we believe our nation should have immigration laws, but that these laws must be humanizing and just. Considering the present policies, we believe that flat and indiscriminate application of our immigration laws is fundamentally unjust, hurting not only Samuel, Julia, and Daniel, but also their community and our country.
As a pastoral team, we are compelled by scripture to offer sanctuary. Consider Leviticus 19:33-34: “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God” (see also: Exodus 22:21-23, 23:9, Deuteronomy 24:14-22, Ezekiel 22:7, 29). We are compelled by Jesus teaching that we should love our neighbors as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:39). We believe Jesus meant it when he said, “when I was a stranger you welcome to me… for whenever you did it onto the least of these, you did it on to me” (Matthew 25:35, 40), and we are hopeful that in welcoming Samuel we are welcoming our Lord. We think that when Paul said, “when one part of the body suffers, all suffer together with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26), that this includes Samuel, who is without question part of Jesus’ body, and who, with his family, is suffering deeply. We are convicted that when Paul wrote, “Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God” (Romans 15:7), that there is not a caveat to exclude people based upon borders, nationalities, and immigration status.
For those who want to know more about the Sanctuary Church Movement, how sanctuary works, what the hoped for outcomes are as well as a ton of context information, check out this link.