Arizona Day 7: Sanctuary at St Francis in the Foothills UMC

"It is difficult... but as I say, I have no other choice." - Francisco Perez Cordova, on his decision to move into Sanctuary Francisco

We met Francisco on Friday afternoon in the sunlit office of St Francis in the Foothills UMC. Darci and I had just come from the Office of the Medical Examiner and I was still reeling from the overload of information. Francisco shared of his many journeys crossing the border as a migrant worker and to his final two crossings...one by desert and one by a refrigerated truck.

"In the desert, I had three gallons of water, you know? And the coyotes...they say 'no, no, only take one, that's too many', but I say I need it, I need water. They say, 'we know where water is, only take one'. It's hard to know if they know or not. We walked all night, fast, fast, and you have to keep up or they leave you behind."

And we talked about Francisco's current fight; to receive a stay of deportation so he can remain with his family here in the U.S. This fight has led him to move within the confines of St. Francis, to join a movement known as Sanctuary.

Sanctuary

It is an act of civil disobedience to offer sanctuary and safety to an undocumented person in the U.S. Yet there also is an unwritten law in the U.S. that law enforcement won't forcibly enter a public building (i.e. church or school) without there being a threat of physical harm to those inside. This has made churches a great environment to offer shelter to individuals caught in immigration battles. The Sanctuary movement (started in the 80's) seeks to apply pressure and publicly cause action on the part of the government, by churches taking in undocumented individuals in threat of deportation. This is the last resort on the part of the individual, some having lived in fear for months or years with families to care for and no home in another country to go to. Currently, there are about a half dozen individuals living in sanctuary within churches across the country. This is getting real.

St Francis in the Foothills UMC

One of the questions of this past month is "What is the church's response in the face of injustice?" St Francis seeks to respond in love and in action. It is the sheltering of Francisco, of standing alongside him and advocating on his behalf. Of loving on his family, playing with his children, praying with him as the days go on. Of putting a face and name and story to the broken immigration system and choosing to act in this very personal way.

 

Today, Darci and I joined in worship at St. Francis for the morning. There is beauty in visiting a new place, making friends, and worshipping within the community come Sunday morning. We sang for the offertory, 10,000 Reasons with a little bilingual twist. We were thankful to offer up a small gift of encouragement, in light of all that has been given to us this past week.

As we said goodbye to Francisco today, he walked us to the front gate. I moved to unlock the car and as I turned back one last time, Francisco was watching from behind the grated window. A courageous man. Caught in between.

Would you consider helping Francisco? There is a Facebook page you can LIKE and follow updates. As well, they are looking for people to sign an online petition in support of Francisco and to stop his deportation. Every voice counts my friends. Every voice.

More info on Francisco's story: Tuscon Sentinel Article

More info on Sanctuary: Sanctuary 101