Immigrant and refugee families are provided long-standing federal and state civil-rights statutes that ensure the protection of every individual regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation and disability. In a time where almost every executive order has worked against the immigrant community, we have seen a rise in events that create hostile environments for the families that need these protections.
With the influx of refugees coming in from El Salvador and Guatemala in the late 1970’s because of a human rights catastrophe that President Ronald Reagan administered, many individuals found the journey into the U.S. incredibly difficult. A 2013 study written by the Migration Policy Institute found that the Reagan administration rejected 98 percent of Guatemalan asylums. It was this situation that gave a rise to the U.S. sanctuary movement.
Three decades later, the United States is facing a rise in Syrian refugees, as well as a rise of immigrants from the Middle East and other parts of the world.
To face the extremes of the 1980 administration, churches and other places of worship began providing shelter for immigrants facing deportation, claiming themselves as sanctuary congregations and provided the assistance that the U.S. congress failed to provide.
Sanctuaries serve as safe spaces for people facing deportation and for those who are at a high risk of facing deportation. More than 800 congregations have currently claimed themselves as sanctuaries and organizations like the PICO National Network, United We Dream, the Advancement Project and Groundsell, as well as many other local coalitions are taking a stand against Donald Trump’s federal policy.
Just this past week, MPower Change released a statement announcing their support and commitment to joining the sanctuary movement but also urging members of the Muslim community to take the same stand. Muslim leaders released a letter that outlined their efforts in creating a sanctuary for all communities of people who are subject to the negative environments surrounding them.
The letter states,
“We, the undersigned, pledge to use our resources as spiritual and congregational leaders to support the movement to create sanctuary for immigrants and refugees of all faiths and backgrounds, documented and undocumented, and anyone else who feels marginalized, frightened, or disrespected by a hateful environment. We encourage leaders in Muslim communities across the U.S. to join us and do the same.”
As Muslims, we are aware that in our lives we certainly will face trying times, just as the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) did. The Quran states, “They love those who migrate to them…and give preference to them over themselves, even though they are also in need” (Quran 59:9).
It is time that we urge our local mosques to join the sanctuary movement to ensure that every individual, Muslim or non-Muslim, can look to our places of worship as a place of security. We know that legislation in congress is underway that directly impacts our Hispanic neighbors, as well as our own community. The time to create a safe space and create an environment that is not hostile is now.
Just as people of faith worked to protect all people from Central America seeking asylum in the 1980’s, Muslims must work together to ensure that their places of worship are safe spaces for all.
United We Dream and Church World Service have developed a “Sanctuary Movement Toolkit” for all faith members interested in creating a sanctuary space.
Some easy steps to take part in the movement are as follows:
- Address the significance and moral purpose behind helping immigrants in religious conversations.
- Create protection networks to provide legal assistance.
- Educate yourself and others about your rights, your sanctuary space, housing assistance, family planning and bail support funds.
- Support local work to defend sanctuary cities and local detainer policies.
- Defend asylum seekers and by pushing against expedited removal by helping provide legal assistance.
- Work with your closest mosque and encourage them to take the MPower Change Pledge to join the Sanctuary Movement so that they may work with their local refugee and immigrant communities to provide sanctuary.
The time to step up and hold our government and law enforcement accountable is now. Our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) stood against the injustices against the immigrant and urged us to do the same.
“And We have certainly honored the children of Adam and carried them on the land and sea and provided for them of the good things and preferred them over much of what We have created, with [definite] preference” (Quran 17:70).