Sanctuary. That exquisite word conjures images of sunlight through stained glass windows and feelings of calm, peace, quietude, and safety.
But sanctuary, in the context of sanctuary city, is a misnomer. Sanctuary cities do not actually offer undocumented immigrants sanctuary, but they still matter a lot.
Sanctuary has deep religious roots. In medieval England, a criminal could put himself beyond the reach of the law for 40 days by seeking refuge in a church. By the early 17th century, however, the church and the king of England had abolished the practice.
Although church-based sanctuary has never taken root in American law, the religious practice of sanctuary is embedded here. In the early 1980s, for example, the sanctuary movement involved over 500 congregations of all faiths. Places of worship, although not legally protected, nonetheless often provided a safe haven – with shelter, food, clothing and legal advice – for Central American refugees fleeing oppression and death squads. Today, in reaction to Trump, religious institutions once again are embracing sanctuary for immigrants.
The concept of sanctuary, to a degree, was incorporated into our system...
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