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Sanctuary: shelter or sham?

September 08, 2007

Re "A haven for illegal immigrants," Opinion, Sept. 2

Grace Dyrness and Clara Irazábal write of religious leaders who believe that illegal aliens have basic rights of "due process, respectful treatment and, in the case of children, the right not to be separated from parents."

Why does any of this pertain to Elvira Arellano? She had due process during her trials and convictions for identity theft and immigration law violations that led to her deportation order. She had respectful treatment. She was not arrested for a year while a church-based scofflaw and did not complain of disrespect at law enforcement's hands. Her separation from her son is her choice -- not the government's. Nothing prevented her from taking him to Mexico.

No matter what any religious leader says, a person's desire to live in the U.S. does not trump American laws that determine who can and cannot live here.

This article made a compelling case for disregarding churches' claim of sanctuary status -- and for amending the Constitution so that at least one U.S. citizen parent is required for a U.S.-born baby's citizenship.

Andrew Sussman

Rancho Santa Margarita

The young boy who said, "The police are going to get them and send my parents to Mexico. . . . I'm scared," doesn't realize that his illegal parents made a conscious choice to have a child in the U.S. fully knowing that at some time in the future they could be caught and deported. Who is responsible for the breakup of this family? The parents.

I did not see one mention in this article about the parents' responsibility, but plenty of mention about "the plight of the millions of immigrants who live in fear of arrest and separation from their families." Responsible parents would never leave their children in the U.S. or even consider having children if there were the slightest possibility of some sort of future upheaval or separation.

Leslie Shores


Dyrness and Irazábal recount the origin of the sanctuary movement in the 1980s to advocate for the rights of refugees fleeing civil war and political violence in Central America. While they acknowledge that the beneficiaries of today's sanctuary movement are victims of "social and economic inequities" rather than refugees, they fail to recognize the crucial moral and legal distinction between these two types of immigrants. Law and common decency dictate that we grant asylum to all people who are fleeing for their lives. But it is far from clear that we have the obligation or the ability to accept all the people who are seeking better lives here. By conflating economically motivated immigrants with true refugees, the new sanctuary movement has lost some of its moral authority and, most likely, its support from many Americans.

Daniel J. Freed

Santa Monica

As a member of a sanctuary church, First Unitarian Los Angeles, I feel it is time for the religious community to declare its resolve to make amends to the poor people who have lost their lands, their businesses and their countries to punitive economic trade policies initiated in this country. Our trade policies caused the human tragedy of mass migrations, and now we insist on blaming the victims.

Rochelle McAdam

Santa Monica

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