By unanimous vote on January 17, 2021, the congregation of Alamosa Presbyterian Church (APC) declared itself a Sanctuary Church. This declaration means that the church is prepared to consider requests for refuge for an undocumented immigrant to lower the risk of deportation while she or he awaits further processing of their legal status. Places of worship are among those settings honored by Immigration and Customs Enforcement policy as “sensitive locations” that are typically free from ICE enforcement actions. A faith-driven Sanctuary Movement, which first began in the U.S. in the 1980’s, has gained renewed interest in recent years in response to increasingly restrictive immigration policies and rising deportations. APC’s decision came after a period of congregational study and discernment, fitting well with Biblical teachings from the Christian tradition during the recent seasons of Advent, Christmas and Epiphany.
The congregation’s process has had the close support and encouragement of representatives from other local faith communities. This has included two Alamosa congregations - the Anabaptist (Mennonite) Fellowship and the Unitarian Fellowship – which also meet in the Presbyterian church building, as well as First United Methodist Church. All four congregations have been active in an SLV Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights that began meeting in late 2016, to address a range of concerns identified by our Valley’s immigrant communities and the non-profit SLV Immigrant Resource Center. Other faith communities who have joined the Coalition’s efforts over the years include the Church of God – Cristo Salva, as well as members of area Catholic and Episcopal congregations. Recently the local Coalition has also benefited from expertise shared by the Accompaniment and Sanctuary Coalition Colorado Springs (ASC COS), a group of diverse faith leaders who support the immigrant communities of Colorado Springs with a range of services, including a Sanctuary Church in that city.
No one is actively seeking refuge at Alamosa Presbyterian at this time, but as such requests can arise quickly the congregation wants to be prepared. Like the Colorado Springs group, the local Coalition is seeking additional faith allies to stand with the Presbyterian congregation and, if requested, to contribute in practical ways to a range of needs – from financial support to in-kind provision of meals, laundry, etc. - that may come up for an individual and their family while living in a refuge setting.
As the nation begins to grapple again with immigration reform, APC hopes that there will be policies put in place where sanctuary becomes less of a need. Support for reform can be seen from across the political spectrum, including in areas like the SLV that depend on the contributions of immigrant communities. To this end, APC and the local Coalition are seeking to reach out to other denominations and faith traditions in the Valley to develop a shared faith statement around immigrant justice and to encourage legislators to work together to enact more humane immigration policies. If other local churches, faith organizations, or individual faith-community members are interested in taking part in this effort, they can contact the SLV Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights at [email protected] .