The New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City (NSC) was established in May 2007 as an arm of the New Sanctuary Movement, which was later renamed Sanctuary 2014. Its founders were Rev. Dr. Donna Schaper, Father Juan Carlos Ruiz, and documentary filmmaker Angad Bhalla. NSC describes itself as “an interfaith network of congregations, organizations, and individuals, standing publicly in solidarity with families and communities resisting detention and deportation in order to stay together.” On the premise that “unjust global and systemic economic relationships and racism form the basis of the injustices that affect immigrants,” the Coalition aims to “dismantle” the “violent, dehumanizing and unjust system” of American immigration law. Toward that end, NSC advocates aggressive campaigns of “civil disobedience, political pressure, phone-calling and letter-writing” to address the “unjust global and systemic economic relationships and racism [that] form the basis of the injustices that affect immigrants.” Moreover, it provides training sessions on the “system of laws that make the caging of immigrants, massive deportations, and ongoing separation of families possible,” as well as trainings that identify “who is financially benefiting from the incarceration and deportation machine.” And to gain public sympathy for its cause, NSC routinely publicizes the heartrending personal stories of various illegal aliens facing deportation.
Calling on religious congregations to “open their doors to individuals and families who have a final deportation order and may be a target of … ICE [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] raids,” NSC exhorts all “faith communities” to “provide what they can [for illegals], including safe haven [and] physical sanctuary.” The Coalition also believes that illegal aliens should be granted voting privileges and free access to a public college education.
Through programs and clinics staffed by volunteer lawyers and trained laypeople, NSC provides legal support and referrals to help illegal aliens apply for asylum; prepare for court appearances; evade deportation and detention; and access immigration-related benefits. The Coalition also advocates on illegals’ behalf to political leaders and other policymakers.
NSC supports the Child Citizen Protection Act which was originally introduced into Congress in 2006 by Rep. Jose Serrano. If this legislation were to pass, it would prevent the deportation of any illegal aliens who are the parents of U.S.-born children.
In partnership with Make The Road New York and the Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights, NSC in August 2009 launched an “Immigration Out of Rikers” initiative condemning the presence of ICE operations at Rikers Island Prison.
NSC gained national attention in December 2009 when it launched a campaign to free Jean Montrevil—a Haitian immigrant, ex-felon, and NSC member who was being detained by the U.S. government under a deportation order. The Coalition’s efforts on Montrevil’s behalf received endorsements from more than 100 organizations, while Congressional Representatives Jerrold Nadler and Nydia Velasquez also spoke out in the man’s defense. NSC staged a number of rallies for Montrevil in January 2010, arguing that American immigration laws were unjust, overly punitive, and destructive of families.
At various times, NSC has worked in collaboration with such groups as the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Friends Service Committee, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the New York Immigration Coalition, the Immigrant Defense Project, the Legal Aid Society, and Make The Road New York. In February 2010, for example, NSC and these organizations jointly authored a statement to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to demand the release of detainees who were being held at the Varick Federal Detention Facility in New York City. “Detention … is a deprivation of liberty for our community members that negatively impacts their families and comes at great financial expense to taxpayers,” said the statement.
In April 2010, NSC condemned Arizona’s SB 1070, a newly passed law permitting police in that state to check the immigration status of suspected criminals, and posted a prayer on its website likening the statute to the policies of Nazi Germany: “Keep us from the silence that allows hate to fester. Don’t let us become like the Germans of the last century who didn’t see or hear what was happening.” In May 2010, the Coalition re-emphasized its opposition to SB 1070, saying: “Resistance to this law is in solidarity with all God’s children.”
One of NSC’s leading initiatives today is its Immigration Accompaniment Program, which “provides a support structure to strengthen those caught in immigration proceedings”; “keeps family members informed at every step of the process as their loved ones move forward”; and “holds legal officials accountable for providing accurate information and serving due process.” Moreover, this program assigns volunteers to accompany individuals who are in final removal proceedings, to their required, periodic check-ins with ICE and the Intensive Supervision Appearance Program.
NSC advises that if illegals are questioned by police regarding their immigration status, they should say: “I am going to use my right to remain silent.” To further drive this point home, NSC has created many thousands of pre-printed cards which illegals can give to police officers who question them. The cards say: “I choose to exercise my right to remain silent. I am giving you this card because I do not wish to speak to you or respond to your questions. I will not waive my legal rights or sign any papers. I do not consent to any search of my person papers, or property until I have obtained the advice of my attorney.” Moreover, NSC’s website provides a map showing the local “sanctuary spaces” — usually churches or the offices of pro-open borders organizations — where illegals can take refuge from law-enforcement.