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Univ. Detroit Mercy Law Rev.


The concept of sanctuary has deep roots in many religious traditions, including the Roman Catholic Church. Indeed, during the Sanctuary Movement of the 1980s, many Roman Catholic congregations in the United States provided physical sanctuary to Central American refugees fleeing the brutal wars in their countries. In more recent times, Roman Catholic Churches have participated in the “New Sanctuary Movement,” providing not only physical sanctuary to undocumented immigrants and refugees facing detention and removal by federal immigration authorities, but engaging in advocacy and activism on some of the larger questions surrounding immigration policy in the 21st century. Since initiating his campaign in 2015, the current President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, has consistently expressed his desire to punish those who provide sanctuary to vulnerable immigrants1 in danger of apprehension by immigration authorities. While the main focus of Mr. Trump’s crusade against sanctuary has been so-called “Sanctuary Cities,” the fact remains that sanctuary takes many different forms—both private and public—and that the policies enacted by Mr. Trump and his executive agencies since he assumed office in January 2017 have arguably created a greater need for the provision of sanctuary than at any other time since the 1980s. One of the most devastating actions taken by Mr. Trump was the Department of Homeland Security’s (“DHS”) decision in late 2017 to revoke Temporary Protected Status (“TPS”) from the citizens of Nicaragua and Haiti currently residing in the United States after devastating natural disasters struck those countries. The decision to send thousands of vulnerable Nicaraguans and Haitians back to their countries of origin reflects an arbitrary and often cruel policy decision to return people who have enjoyed legal protections and who have been building lives in the United States—sometimes for decades—without any recognition of the contributions they have made, and without any opportunity to remain.

In Part I of this Article, I discuss the treatment (or lack of) the concept of sanctuary in Catholic Social Teaching and what obligations members of the Roman Catholic Church have to provide sanctuary to those in need. In Part II, I segue into a discussion of how Catholic Social Teaching is instructive for responding to the revocation of TPS from Nicaraguan and Haitian citizens. In Part III, I analyze how the concept of sanctuary can be employed by individuals, communities, and organizations to protect these vulnerable people in their time of crisis as a response to the communities affected by the termination of their TPS. Finally, I conclude with a discussion about the future of TPS and those whose TPS has been revoked. may avail themselves of the ability to lawfully remain in the United States in the future.