New Sanctuary Movement and Migrant Justice

Posted by admin on Feb 4th, 2008


Sunday, February 10, 2008. Door 4:15 pm, event starts at 4:30 pm sharp! SFU Harbor Center, 515 West Hastings. Wheelchair accesible, childcare provided.


Elvira Arellano is a Mexican citizen and sanctuary-deportee whose plight in the US has galvanized the New Sanctuary Movement and personified the oppression suffered by undocumented people. Originally entering the US in 1997, she was apprehended then and deported back to Mexico. She returned and gave birth to a son in 1999, Saul Arellano. From 2000 to 2002, Arellano worked as a cleaning woman at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, but was arrested and convicted of using a false social security card following a post-September 11 security sweep.

On August 15, 2006 – the day she was supposed to appear before immigration authorities – Arellano took refuge in the Adalberto United Methodist Church in Chicago. Over the year, she become a spokesperson for the New Sanctuary Movement, as well as president of La Familia Latina Unida, and a symbol of resistance against the systemic violence, exploitation, and racism in the US immigration system. On August 19, 2007, having traveled to California on a speaking tour where she advocated the right of immigrant families to stay united, the single mother was arrested by US authorities and deported to Mexico, without her son. Arellano’s deportation was clearly meant as a blow to the resurgent immigrants rights movement, yet the movement continues as strong as ever.

Join us for a ONE-TIME OPPORTUNITY to hear from Elvira, who has flown in from Mexico to meet the US-caravan Marcha Migrante at the US-Canada border on Feb 12th. For more information email noii-van at or call 778-862-8895 or 604-710-5480.

Articles on Elvira:


The American sanctuary movement initially took root in the 1980s as churches rallied to assist Central American refugees fleeing US-sponsored wars and protect them from deportation. The continuing racist exploitation at the heart of American imperial ambitions, which has become even more pronounced in the post 9/11 era with increasing border militarization and deportations, has resulted in a revival of this movement over the past several years.

The New Sanctuary Movement (NSM) is a faith-based movement uniting Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh communities who share the common hopes of providing sanctuary for undocumented migrants whose deportation could break up families. This movement is a specific and powerful response to the phenomenon of “illegal” parents (ie. hyper-exploited migrant workers) being deported and separated from the US-born (and therefore American citizen) children.

Critically, the NSM draws connections between the labor demands of a racist, capitalist political economy and the exclusionary nature of citizenship. Kim Bobo, executive director of the Interfaith Worker Justice in Chicago and key NSM organizer, has stated, “The immigration reform agenda is just inseparable from worker justice at this moment in our history. The absolute worst abuse of workers that we see around the country is the abuse of immigrant workers, because they have no path to citizenship, and there’s no strong protection of workers’ rights for immigrant workers.”

In harmonizing Canadian immigration policies with the U.S. in the “Smart Border Declaration” of December 2001 that is part of the Security and Prosperity Partnership Agreement, with the proposed “national security perimeter” around North America, and with the changes in the 2002 Immigration and Refugee Protection Act including the lack of implementation of the Refugee Appeal Division, Canada has opted for an increasingly racist and imperialist immigration and refugee policy.

Denise Nadeau, an educator with a Doctorate of Ministry in International Feminist Theology writes, “In this situation of grave injustice, supporting the claims of asylum seekers and refugees may be one of the most effective things we, as Christians, can do to challenge the forces of empire. The spiritual basis for solidarity is the basic fact of our interconnectedness as human beings. This means we do not see the asylum seeker and refugee as a “tragic” victim whom we are saving by our good works. Rather it means we acknowledge we are in a relationship, one shaped by our location in a
country and a religion with more than five hundred years of a colonial past and present.”

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