Auburn and the Sanctuary Movement
Wednesday, April 15, 2015 by Esther Meroño0 Responses

Sanctuary 101 | Our Values | Partnership | Movement Moments | Victories | Take Action

“Mr. President, I ask you…let my dad stay in the United States.” That’s what eight-year-old Carlos wrote on Father’s Day to President Obama. His dad, Daniel, is undocumented and facing deportation. When Carlos and Daniel had no other options for keeping their family together, a church in their hometown of Tucson, Arizona, stood in the gap. Rev. Alison Harrington and the congregation at Southside Presbyterian Church took emergency moral action and welcomed Daniel into the protection of Sanctuary. When Rev. Harrington needed help on what to do next, she reached out to Auburn. We equipped her with the organizing, digital, media and messaging strategy she needed to escalate Daniel’s case and win his stay of deportation – keeping his family together for another year. Daniel’s win then went on to spark a revival of the Sanctuary Movement at a critical time in the lead-up to President Obama’s recent action.

How churches and synagogues are stopping deportations:

Rebirthed in 2014, the #SanctuaryMovement uses emergency moral action to keep our immigrant neighbors safe while they fight deportation orders that take mothers and fathers away from their children and neighbors away from their communities. Sanctuary isn’t about left, right, liberal or conservative—it’s about people connected by their faith, acting on a shared moral responsibility to compassion and justice as they fight to keep families together.

There have been 10 Sanctuary cases in the past year, from Arizona where the movement began, across the United States to Portland, Denver, Chicago and Philadelphia.

Sanctuary 101: 10 Things You Need to Know

Our Values:

As a person of faith and a mom, Rev. Harrington was called by scripture to care for the widow and the orphan.

Deportations that create the suffering of thousands of families are not a policy of God. God's work expands love, justice, peace, and joy in our lives and in our communities. That's why congregations across the country have chosen to act with love and compassion towards our immigrant neighbors. Families are sacred and each individual deserves justice, dignity, and hospitality, regardless of their immigration status.

“The people of the land have used oppressions, committed robbery, and mistreated the poor and needy; and they wrongfully oppress the stranger. So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it.” –Ezekiel 22

When there is oppression, God calls for someone to stand in the gap and do the moral, just thing. Sanctuary is emergency moral action – standing in the gap to protect the wrongfully oppressed.

Working together to make change:

The Sanctuary Movement was led by the brave immigrants who made the difficult decision to enter Sanctuary, their families, and the dedicated grassroots organizers and clergy who worked day-in and day-out to fight to keep families together.

Groundswell provided support in partnership with Church World Service through our petition platform, email list, digital storytelling tools, and campaign support and coaching to complement CWS’ media and policy work.

*Campaign Support*

Petitions: Groundswell’s petition platform is a free service for faith-rooted social changemakers. Sanctuary leaders used this platform to create petitions for each Sanctuary case, with Groundswell’s campaign and digital coaching along the way. These petitions helped congregations share their story, build momentum, expand their reach, and leverage people power when they delivered the petitions to local immigration enforcement officials. So far, the Sanctuary Movement has almost 25,000 signatures.  


Eblasts: As the list of Sanctuary supporters grew, grassroots leaders were able to use that list to make their campaigns more effective. In critical moments throughout the campaign – in advance of a City Council vote, or a petition delivery – Sanctuary organizers were able to quickly communicate updates and calls to action to their thousands of petition signers. Whereas before, you would have to call supporters or organize an in-person meeting, now you can send one email to thousands and rally them online. Groundswell helped push these out by drafting engaging emails and helping Sanctuary leaders think strategically on how to use their lists.

Check out our highlights:

My church is fighting Beatriz’ deportation

Urgent action for Francisco today

10 things to know about tonight’s immigration announcement by President Obama

We delivered 15,000 signatures to DHS today

CWS also worked hard to get up a website for the movement to be used as a resource and sign-up page for congregations—over 100 joined to support.  



As the Sanctuary Movement took off, Groundswell’s supporting role also included empowering grassroots organizers and clergy with useful tools. Our award-winning trainers held two webinars:

Digital Organizing — Nothing can substitute direct action facilitated by on-the-ground work, but when used in concert with innovative digital tools, organizing is taken to the next level. Our trainers showed Sanctuary leaders how to use the petition platform effectively, and how to push out their campaigns via social media like Facebook and Twitter.

Spokesperson and Media Training — Media around the Sanctuary Movement skyrocketed the summer of 2014 as immigration picked up heat as an issue around midterm elections. Our trainers provided the Top 10 Tips for speaking powerfully through the media, along with a messaging strategy designed for faith voices in the Sanctuary 2014 movement.

Movement Moments & Digital Storytelling

Powerful storytelling is the backbone of successful changemaking. Sanctuary is about keeping families together—here are a few ways we used digital tools to share that story and convert an audience looking for entertainment into action takers:

This brave 8th grader is fighting for his dad on Father’s Day.

Hey Obama, this is how protect families from deportation.

Struggling with your faith? Read this letter to the Pope by an undocumented mom.

This 7-year-old understands immigration reform better than Congress.

PHOTO STORY: How a prayer and a petition got these undocumented families a big meeting in DC.

Movement Victories

Daniel Neyoy Ruiz at Southside Presbyterian in Tucson was the first to enter Sanctuary in 2014. He was granted a 1-year stay of deportation through local and national efforts after 30 days in Sanctuary.

Beatriz Santiago Ramirez at Our Lady of Guadalupe Mission in Chicago was also a victim of domestic violence, in deportation proceedings because of a missing signature on her application for a special U-Visa. Her local team worked hard to get her a stay of deportation until the Visa could come through.

Francisco Aguirre at Augustana Lutheran Church in Portland is a labor rights advocate also waiting approval for a special U-Visa. During his time in Sanctuary, he was picked up by ICE at a court date, then released and granted a stay of deportation thanks to the support of his community.

Marco Tulio at Shadow Rock UCC in Phoenix, granted a 1-year stay the day he was due to enter Sanctuary! 

Luis Lopez Acabal at University Presbyterian Church in Tempe, qualifies for the new deferred action that has yet to be implemented. He was given the green light to leave the safety of Sanctuary by DHS when his advocates met with officials in DC after 100 days in Sanctuary.

Francisco Perez Cordova at St. Francis in the Foothills in Tucson is a father of 5 who also qualifies for deferred action that has been stalled by a lawsuit. He was granted a stay after spending 90 days in Sanctuary.

Angela Navarro at West Kensington Ministry Church in Philadelphia was granted a 2-year stay of deportation. She used her freedom to go on a Sanctuary tour and visit the folks still fighting to stay with their families.

Misael Cabrera at Shadow Rock UCC in Phoenix was granted a stay of deportation after almost 5 months in Sanctuary.

Take Action

The fight continues. There are still two active Sanctuary cases. Please take a moment to act on their behalf:

Rosa Robles Loreto at Southside Presbyterian in Tucson is a little league mom who has been in Sanctuary for 8 months. Click here to see how you can help her case.



Arturo Hernandez Garcia at First Unitarian Society of Denver may qualify for deferred action when it’s implemented, but has been in Sanctuary for six months now. He has a wife, two girls, and a job to return to once he’s safe. Please sign and share his petition.  


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