Justice for the Undocumented Challenges for the New Sanctuary Movement By ERIC JOHNSON-DEBAUFRE
On Wednesday, May 9th religious organizations in five U.S. cities announced the launch of the New Sanctuary Movement and pledged their determination to protect undocumented people against federal efforts to deport them. Modeled in part on the original Sanctuary Movement of the 1980s, this new movement distinguishes itself in part by being both significantly more religiously diverse-at the New York launch, representatives included Rabbi Michael Feinberg and founder and amir of the House of Peace, Shaykh T. A. Bashir-and directed towards a larger and more diverse population of immigrants.
As a participant in the original Sanctuary Movement and someone who has in the past written about the need for revitalizing and expanding it (see "Building a New Sanctuary Movement," CounterPunch 5/19/06), I greeted the announcement with both surprise and enthusiasm. Undocumented people and their allies ought to be encouraged by the emergence of this New Sanctuary Movement and wish it all possible success. Nevertheless, as the founders of the New Sanctuary Movement no doubt know, this new movement faces serious challenges. The most significant source would appear to come from the larger culture in which the New Sanctuary Movement and, more importantly, undocumented immigrants find themselves. As several recent articles in CounterPunch make clear, these challenges include the proliferation of both discourses that aim to disguise racism and nativism under the veneer of legalism and even, as in the May 1st attacks on migrants by the LAPD, physical violence.
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