For Christians the idea seems to follow clearly from Jesus’ command to love our neighbors, and from Old Testament guidance about caring for foreigners, travelers, etc.
This is a summary of key ideas from a paper the ACLU has distributed. It does not count as legal advice, but does enable some helpful awareness. This is an 8-page PDF that can be accessed here .
- Headlines and bolded questions are quoted from the article.
- The plain-text subpoints are my own very brief summaries.
My summaries have NO authority – it’s just so you have an idea what to look for in the ACLU document.
NOTE: THIS IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE AND DOES NOT SUBSTITUTE FOR
CONSULTATION WITH AN ATTORNEY.
What does it mean for a faith group to provide “sanctuary” to immigrants?
With regard to immigrants, [this is a quote] sanctuary is generally considered to involve providing comfort and assistance to immigrants and their family members at risk of apprehension by federal immigration authorities or mistreatment by others.
Recently it often focuses on helping immigrants who are going through various types of legal procedure.
What criminal laws should sanctuary congregations be aware of?
Laws against harboring and against transporting.
What are some examples of activities that my faith group can participate in to support immigrants’ rights that steer clear of potential criminal liability?
- respect privacy
- provide services to broad sets of people
- speak up for rights and protection for immigrants and their families
- refer to legal aid, provide legal info sessions, social service referrals
- gathering info about the issues, rapid response teams to gather info after raids
- accompany a person to ICE or court
Public Declarations of “Sanctuary”
If a faith group publicly declares its place of worship as a “sanctuary” for immigrants, can that provide any additional legal protection to the congregation or to immigrants?
“Sanctuary” is not recognized by federal law; provides no legal protection for members. It might help protect members since it shows openness. But it might put people being helped at further risk by drawing attention.
Are there any risks that could result if a faith group makes a public declaration as a “sanctuary” for immigrants?
It puts you on their radar. Prosecution must prove intent to help an immigrant remain illegally. If some members go beyond the law it then reflects on the intention of the congregation,
My congregation has decided to publicly declare itself a “Sanctuary Congregation” – what
actions are more risky for us now?
Minimal Risk: help provided to any and all regardless of immigration status, helping immigrants who are working through the system.Activities ok for faith groups? -nondiscrimination -respect privacy -serve varieties of people -speak up for rights for immigrants -legal aid, legal info sessions, social service -gather info re issues, raids -accompany to ICE, courtClick To Tweet
What is criminal harboring?[This paragraph is a quote.] Harboring is sheltering an undocumented immigrant and assisting him or her to remain unlawfully in the United States … with knowledge or reckless disregard of the immigrant’s unlawful status.
Our congregation is providing food and shelter to an undocumented immigrant – can we be found guilty of harboring?
If there is intent to help an immigrant remain illegally
Does the harboring law and risk of prosecution vary across the country?
Is it unlawful for members of my congregation to live with an undocumented immigrant,
rent to an undocumented immigrant, or allow an undocumented immigrant to visit their
houses as an overnight guest?
Does it still constitute harboring if my congregation provides sanctuary to an
undocumented immigrant whose location is known by immigration authorities?
Not usually. Intent to evade detection is important. Individual immigrant and their attorney should be involved in such decisions.
What if the undocumented immigrant being offered sanctuary is currently going through and complying with immigration proceedings?
That’s good, and also that their location is known to the authorities.
What is criminal transporting?
to deliberately help the immigrant remain unlawfully
Can I take an undocumented immigrant to the doctor? Grocery shopping? To a faith based
Generally ok if not for purpose of concealment or remaining illegally.
Immigration Enforcement Actions
Does the ICE “Sensitive Locations” memo protect my place of worship from being the subject of an ICE raid?
– not legally
Can an ICE agent or law enforcement officer enter my house of worship without a warrant? What about private spaces?
Public spaces, yes; private spaces, no.[This paragraph is a quote.] Demand to see the warrant. Ask that it is slipped under the door or shown through a window. Only after confirming it is signed by a federal judge should you allow them to enter. If the officer does not have such a warrant (including if he or she only has an ICE warrant), you may instruct the officer to leave.
This document includes a sample to show what such a warrant looks like.[This paragraph is a quote.] An ICE warrant allows ICE officers to arrest an individual who is unlawfully residing in the United States. An ICE warrant does not, however, allow officials to enter a private space. To arrest an undocumented immigrant inside a private space, the officials must also have a judicial warrant, as private spaces are covered by the Fourth Amendment protections.
Am I required to talk to a police officer or ICE agent if they enter the congregation and ask questions?
No. Get an attorney. Be careful not to provide any false information.
Are there defenses against harboring prosecution?
Limited. Talk to a lawyer about your situation.
What are the potential penalties under the law for criminally harboring or transporting an
It is a felony. Could be fines and years in prison.
Can my congregation have its property or assets seized for harboring or transporting?
Yes, but it’s been uncommon.
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