5/25/2017 Forum advises faith groups on aiding immigrants

May 25, 2017 | 74° |  Check Tra c

Hawaii News| Religion

Forum advises faith groups on
aiding immigrants
By Pat Gee
Posted May 20, 2017
May 20, 2017

COURTESY DAVID TAKAGI

Mateo Caballero, the legal director of ACLU of Hawaii, cautioned congregations against providing false information about
immigrants.

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5/25/2017 Forum advises faith groups on aiding immigrants

In the 1960s, Church of the Crossroads and the First Unitarian Church of Honolulu
sheltered soldiers who refused to ght in the Vietnam War, but a new sanctuary
movement generating momentum on Oahu today is focused more on advocacy for the
rights of undocumented immigrants.

Churches and other faith groups are being encouraged to become “Immigrant
Welcoming Congregations” and work on behalf of those illegally in the U.S. and in
danger of deportation to keep families together. Providing physical sanctuary for these
immigrants is included, but fear of legal rami cations might deter most churches from
going this far, organizers say.

There are still many ways groups of any faith can help “bend the arc of moral justice”
to make immigrants and their families feel safe, respected and welcomed, said
religious and social justice advocates, who spoke at a public forum Monday at Church
of the Crossroads, which co-sponsored the event in partnership with Hawaii J20+ and
Hawaii Interfaith Power and Light.

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Immigration attorney Clare Hanusz claims that under President Donald Trump’s
administration, immigrants with criminal records are not the only ones targeted for
deportation. “It’s pretty much open season,” she said. “We need places to be ready to
take people in who may need safety” while they obtain legal standing, she added.

However, Mateo Caballero, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of
Hawaii, said a church that provides sanctuary does not give legal protection to an
undocumented immigrant. According to Caballero, laws regarding the “harboring and
transporting” of immigrants require proof that a church or individual had “speci c
intent to help an immigrant remain unlawfully in the United States.”

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5/25/2017 Forum advises faith groups on aiding immigrants

He said it applies when “trying to avoid ICE (U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s
Immigration and Customs Enforcement Immigration) removing them from the
country.” An overview is available at 808ne.ws/notcrime.

“So the best practice is to have a neutral policy available to everyone, regardless of
immigration status, and do not ask questions” about their legal status or background,
Caballero said. Churches should adopt a policy of providing food and shelter to
citizens as well as noncitizens. Congregations have the right to remain silent in the face
of questioning by authorities, but he cautioned against providing false information
about immigrants. He said churches can refuse to cooperate with ICE unless there is a
judicial warrant, and suggested having rapid-response teams in the event of a raid or if
someone is taken into custody, and putting pressure on policymakers to stand against
aggressive deportation.

The Rev. Stanley Bain, a Methodist minister and Faith Action for Community Equity
immigration rights coordinator, said “numbers count. … Give sanctuary on the streets
if you see someone being targeted, gather around that person so no one stands
alone,” or surround a house to protect someone about to be arrested.

Hanusz agreed, saying, “ICE locally doesn’t want that publicity. … There’s power in
showing up when you can.” She cited a case in which dozens of protesters turned out
to stop a Maui mother from being sent back to Mexico in April, allowing Hanusz to
negotiate for her release on bond and argue for her asylum.

“Our religious congregations are not famous for standing up to authorities,” said the
Rev. Mike Young, former pastor of First Unitarian. He was recently involved with two
churches that o ered sanctuary to immigrants in Los Angeles, where some church
members were afraid of losing their tax-exempt status, though it is unlikely. Bain
added in agreement, “Property and assets — it’s fear of losing those.”

Church of the Crossroads passed a resolution in March to become an Immigrant
Welcoming Congregation, said member John Kawamoto. He also spearheaded the
Hookipa (welcoming) Resolution at the state Legislature on behalf of Hawaii J20+,
which advocated against local law enforcement agencies assisting ICE in deporting
immigrants. It received wide support but was not passed.

Amy Agbayani said her group, the Filipino-American Advocacy Network, lobbied on
behalf of the Hookipa Resolution and “Haven of Aloha” resolution recently passed by
the Honolulu City Council.

Though 40 percent of Hawaii’s undocumented immigrants come from the Philippines,
she said Filipino churches and organizations are “rarely active (on immigration issues)
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5/25/2017 Forum advises faith groups on aiding immigrants

partly because they are frightened, but secondly, they like to t in and just hide, and so
far it’s worked. But I think the policies from Washington, D.C., are scary (and) that our
Filipino community has to be much more helpful.”

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