Area Groups To Discuss Sanctuary

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 3/29/2017 12:11:19 AM
Modified: 3/29/2017 12:11:22 AM

Hanover — As a federal crackdown on undocumented immigrants spreads to the Twin States, members of the Hanover Friends Meeting, a Quaker society, and several other Upper Valley faith groups will gather next month to discuss efforts to provide sanctuary from deportation, among other issues affecting noncitizens under the Trump administration.

“We’ve had ongoing discussions at the (Friends) meeting regarding our concern regarding the direction the country’s taken,” Shawn Donovan, a Quaker who helped to organize the event, said this week, “and also we feel it’s important to stand up and support the people who are being targeted by the federal government right now.”

The Hanover Friends Meeting is co-sponsoring the event, which will feature immigration lawyers and will be open to the public, along with the United Valley Interfaith Project, the Upper Valley Jewish Community and Al-Nur, the Muslim community at Dartmouth College.

The event is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. on April 8 in the Quaker meetinghouse, which is located at 43 Lebanon St. in Hanover.

In December, the Meeting declared itself an immigrant “sanctuary,” a term without a strict definition that often refers to an entity that will not assist federal authorities in detaining or deporting noncitizens.

“In faithfulness to more than three centuries of Quaker witness and (in) response to acts of injustice, we further declare that we will not cooperate with municipal, state, or federal authorities seeking to implement policies of forced registration, internment, or deportation of any members of our greater community,” the group said.

Cayla Dyer, lead organizer for the United Valley Interfaith Project, a community of more than a dozen local religious groups, said she didn’t know of any member congregations besides the Hanover Friends Meeting that had taken a similar stance.

“None that I’m aware of,” she said, “but they’re all engaging in the question right now of ‘What’s our goal, what’s our congregation’s role?’ ... As a network, we’re looking at how we can help our congregations understand where they stand — whether it’s (being) an actual sanctuary entity or in some sort of support role.”

Other immigration projects that may see discussion at the April meeting may include the nascent New Hampshire Solidarity Network, a “rapid response team” dedicated to supporting people affected by ICE raids or detainments, as well as others — not necessarily immigrants — targeted in hate violence incidents.

Dyer said concern had been growing among United Valley Interfaith Project’s member congregations for months. During a listening session in January, members expressed worry for Dartmouth College students using Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or “DACA,” an Obama-era program that protects people brought here illegally as children.

“People were feeling it,” she said of the newfound concern for immigrants in the Upper Valley. “And in a place where people thought, ‘Well, we don’t have any immigrants here,’ realizing that we’re all being touched by it. It’s a very core human rights issue — to not be able to either stay with your family or continue your education — and the fear of being detained as well.”

Donovan said he is willing to support undocumented immigrants despite threats from the U.S. Department of Justice to impose sanctions on those who do so.

“I can’t respond for everybody,” Donovan said, “but I can say I’m willing to go out on the line and help people in need.”

Donovan said that in the 1980s, the Friends Meeting gave sanctuary to a Guatemalan family fleeing violence in their home country. Those immigrants were, at the time, undocumented, he said, and have since gained legal residency and still live in the area.

The issue has gained more urgency in the Twin States with the Burlington arrests earlier this month of three immigrant activists with Migrant Justice, a Vermont-based group that advocates for immigrant farmworkers.

James Lyall, executive director of the Vermont chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, called the detentions “politically motivated” during a conference call with reporters on Tuesday.

“They are right out of the playbook of some of the worst authoritarian regimes that arrest, deport, detain (their political opponents),” he said.

Lyall also criticized the Justice Department’s practice of “naming and shaming” sanctuary municipalities, which recently included publishing a list of noncompliant jurisdictions.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday reiterated a warning of President Donald Trump’s that so-called sanctuaries could lose federal funding, saying the Justice Department may “claw back” grants to public entities that shelter undocumented immigrants.

The day before the Hanover event, Vermont Law School is scheduled to hold a conference in South Royalton to discuss how residents can assist communities in Honduras, as well as Central Americans and other noncitizens in Vermont.

Former Vermont Gov. Madeleine Kunin is scheduled to deliver the keynote address on April 7; the VLS conference runs from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Rob Wolfe can be reached at or 603-727-3242.

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