for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.
The word "sanctuary" means "an especially holy place within a site of worship." Sanctuary also means "a place of refuge or protection." Good Shepherd of the Hills Episcopal Church in Cave Creek, Arizona tries to provide both a holy place for worship and a place of refuge and they are taking heat for it.
The self-proclaimed "Little Church with the Big Heart" was on ABC's Nightline program last night as that show considered the Imigration debate. An article on the church's ministry is here Nightline to feature Arizona Congregation at the Episcopal News Service. An article on the segment itself is online here America's Toughest Sheriff Takes on Illegals.
The controversy is this: In 2000, the Town of Cave Creek asked the church to allow workers to gather in its parking lot from Monday to Saturdat as a place where employers can find day laborers. Out of that beginning, came The Good Shepherd Dayworker Program which matches individuals willing to work in a day labor capacity with those in need of temporary workers. The program is self-supporting with workers earning $8-$10 per hour paying the program a dollar a week to take part. Private donations and donations from other churches also support the program. It was, according to the church, designed to offer, "a safe place, no questions asked, for employers to meet laborers." On a given day, 35-50 workers take advantage of the program.
Then the sheriff started targeting vehicles leaving the church, searching them for illegal aliens. Once rounded up, they are taken to the county jail where Sheriff Joe Arpaio wants everyone to know that he can always make more room at the county jail, with its always flashing neon "vacancy" sign and signature pink underwear for inmates. According to Nightline,
He's built a tent city to handle the overflow. With no air conditioning in the blistering desert heat and just two spare meals a day that cost the county 15 cents each, the conditions there rival the prison for enemy combatants in Guantanamo Bay. The jail seems geared to punishment, rather than rehabilitation.Good Shepherd's Rector, the Rev. Glenn Jenks says that the sheriff misunderstands the basic drive fueling the illegal imigration,
The drive that brings them here is one of the most basic and powerful drives, and that is for a father to feed his children. And I think a lot of people underestimate that -- they think that if they can just make it a little uncomfortable for them they'll go home. Some will, but the vast majority won't. More will just come. And they'll keep coming and keep coming.But the church has become a flash point for some. Last year, the American Freedom Riders targeted the church program. See a Sonoran News article American Freedom Riders Return. The AFR believes churches and other nonprofit organizations facilitating illegal activity should have their nonprofit charters revoked, which is something the group has discussed pursuing.
The town still stands by its original request as the town manager recently confirmed,
From our side as the town's administration, we think the Episcopal Church is one of the best assets in our community.The program has become a "signature ministry" of the church according to its rector who says that goals is letting day laborers "know they're cared for, loved, welcomed and safe. Just the fact that they are here on a daily basis reminds us always of why we're here."
What do you think? Is the church providing sanctuary in the sense of a safe place, a refuge, in a positive sense? Or are they simply harboring illegal activity?
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor
The county jail as photographed by Nightline
There is also a tent city jail for overflow
"Then I will draw near to you for judgment;
and I will be a swift witness against...
those who oppress the wage earner in his wages,
the widow and the orphan,
and those who turn aside the alien
and do not fear Me,"
says the LORD of hosts.