Colorful drawing of mother hugging child and father holding up a baby surrounded by flowers and the words No More Deportations Abolish ICE

There is a sanctuary as resistance movement across the continental United States, in Ohio and in Columbus. According to the newly emerging, Columbus Sanctuary Collective, this resistance will only Soon to be announced, a second church in Columbus will be sheltering a family into sanctuary. grow as a result of the deportation and detention machine built by former President Obama and now being exercised to its fullest by the Trump administration. With mass raids on businesses, deportations of longtime residents of Ohio and threats on legitimate green card holders, churches and organizers across the state are organizing to facilitate and initiate a sanctuary effort.

A second church in Columbus will be sheltering a Columbus resident into sanctuary in July. That will be the second case in Columbus of a person needing to be housed and protected from ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). The Columbus Sanctuary Collective asked supporters, activists and the media to show up Monday, June 2 in solidarity with Miriam Vargas, a Honduran mother, as she enters sanctuary at the First English Lutheran Church in downtown Columbus.

Through sanctuary at First English Lutheran Church, Miriam Vargas hopes to find the legal and community support she needs to keep her family together. In Miriam's words, “I have no other choice but to enter sanctuary. I am doing this to keep my family together. My two children are what matters. I need to be with them.” 

It will be a rough road ahead with an uncertain timeline, but she will not be alone. In Columbus, she will join Edith Espinal who has been in sanctuary for over nine months at the Columbus Mennonite Church and Vargas will become the fifth person in Ohio to be in sanctuary publicly.

Sanctuary is a nonviolent act and as Ruben Castilla Herrera frequently says, “It’s the only 24/7 act of resistance happening by the people and against the system in the country.” These are impacted immigrants and faith communities who are openly defying the law by protected and keeping safe immigrant families who just want to be with their families.

As with nonviolence, sanctuary is not a passive act. Sanctuary is an aggressive confrontation to ignorance and hate. Sanctuary sends a message of love against hate and reunification rather than separation. The families that go into sanctuary speak for themselves in their struggle for self-determination – their final confrontation of freedom to migrate. With a president advocating for no due process for immigrants, due process may have to be done in the confines of a church instead of a court room.

Make no mistake, the decision-making process to enter sanctuary is not easy for individuals to make. It means they have to decide whether they have the resolve to remain inside a church or faith community. It is a disruption to their live as they know it. If their case is a public case, their faces and those of their family are exposed. This exposure helps gain public support for their case and assists in the ultimate goal of returning to their home. If there are children involved, they are part of the entire process and the emotional, financial and logistical changes have to be explained and experienced.

The only other option for Vargas was to be deported by ICE. Immigration officials do not make arrangements or appear to be concerned with the consequences of deporting a parent when the children, born here, are American citizens. To witness a perfectly comfortable functioning family in transition from the paradise of what they consider their “American dream” to the fear of a national police home invasion and the subsequent chaos is disturbing. To watch parents try to calm children who don’t understand what is happening to their family is heartbreaking.

While America is starting to mobilize and hit the streets in demonstration to the President’s racist policies and executive orders on separating families; while politicians on all sides debate the civility of discourse; while the corporate media tell the story in a reality show style that gains viewers – Immigrants in this country are taking action and leading the resistance by defying their deportation order and standing up using their very lives to defy the system. All while faith communities are putting their faith into practice and the community in general is mobilizing in support.

Sanctuary as Resistance in Columbus and in Ohio will only grow. The Columbus Free Press thanks the churches that have braved this issue by granting the safety of sanctuary to the families and asks that others follow in this peaceful and just act.

Appears in Issue: 

Free Press History: