Faith communities look at becoming sanctuary congregations

Faith communities look at becoming...

Dane County faith communities are creating a safe space for immigrants by creating sanctuary congregations and a coalition to help support undocumented immigrants

First Unitarian Society is one of around 25 faith and community groups that are working together to find ways to support immigrants at risk of being deported. Their congregation is currently discussing the possibility of becoming a sanctuary congregation, which means they would provide physical housing for undocumented immigrants to stay.

Senior minister Rev. Michael Schuler said his leadership staff are consulting attorneys and their insurance company to research possible liability issues.

"Even if there is a certain liability associated with it, it's probably a calculated risk we are willing to take because we believe strongly that is a moral issue and it's not just something we can turn our backs on," Schuler said.

The Unitarian Society is also looking at other options, including providing resources like food and 24/7 supervision for immigrants. Schuler said the majority of his congregation has already expressed support for the idea.

Rabbi Bonnie Margulis, president of Wisconsin Faith Voices for Justice, is leading efforts in gathering places of faith to participate. Margulis is working with Voces De la Frontera and Centro Hispano to spearhead the plans.

"The rumors and the fear and the hate speech is so elevated right now that as faith communities we had to stand up and say, 'That is not who we are,'" she said.

Not every congregation will decide to house immigrants. The coalition hopes those groups will provide support in other ways, including providing alternative resources individuals may need and working with other places of faith.

Margulis said their efforts are not only to protect immigrants, they are also trying to take a political stand. A major goal of the group is to keep families together and prevent parents from being deported.

"People need to understand what these policies do to people, and families we need to get beyond the narrative that people come into this country and are rapist and murders or they are here stealing our jobs or that they are a drain on society. None of those things aren't true," she said.

The Unitarian Society will meet on June 4 to vote on becoming a sanctuary congregation.

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