Carmela enters sanctuary

Carmela Libre: Grant Asylum to Mother & Children in Sanctuary at Church of the Advocate

On December 13th 2017, Carmela, Fidel, Keyri, Yoselin, and Edwin entered sanctuary at Church of the Advocate, a member congregation of New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia. “I am taking Sanctuary to fight for my family, to protest our deportation orders and the injustices of the immigration systems. Everybody deserves to live with dignity and safety,” said Carmela.

Sign the petition asking ICE to grant their asylum case!

Rev. Dr. Renee McKenzie’s offered this sermon:

The Church of the Advocate is a place for radicals. No I am not saying that the Advocate is a place for extremist; This is a place that believes and knows and lives the simple truth that God calls us to love radically, serve radically and welcome radically. As Father Paul Washington said many years ago, this church lives the gospel of Jesus Christ. This means that for us action speaks louder than words. People are people. And love is the most important thing. That’s why we have invited Carmella and her family into sanctuary with us.

Providing sanctuary is a central act of the church. It is opening the doors of our building and opening the doors of our heart to receive others in the spirit of the Lord. To protect, to nurture, and to emboldened people to claim their space, live their lives and speak their truth. Carmella is speaking her truth and it is our honor to stand along with her as she demonstrates courage; courage first in bringing her children to this country for safety from the reality of violence of which they are direct targets in Mexico. This was an act of courage but Carmella’s fight was not to end with this. After being denied asylum by ICE she determined that deportation back to Mexico was not an option. She wants for her children what each and every one of us wants for our children: we want our children to have the opportunity to grow into healthy adults with the capacity to fully embrace life. Her second act of courage and why we are here today is to demand that ICE allows her to pursue her petition for asylum in this country while she remains in this country. Deportation is not an option for this family.

Creating a welcome place at Church of the AdvocateIn this moment of standing solidly with people fighting deportation the Advocate just like other churches across this country can proclaim the good news: that the church is alive and well and living according to our call.

The Advocate joined the New Sanctuary Movement earlier this year. One of the most rewarding things about being a part of this organization is the recognition of a shared humanity among people of color in a common fight. It is more important then ever that we stand together, that we struggle side-by-side; that we offer resistance while offering love.

This is important because people of color together are on the margins of power in this country. I had a revelation recently that changed my thinking about the power of living on the margins. We often see those located away from the center as the ones with limited power to shape our own destiny, to claim our own position and to speak our own truth. To be on the margins was like being banished from the seat of action, to be on the periphery was to have to fight to do more than just watch and pray.

The margins of society can actually point to something other than powerlessness for those who live there. The margins can become the center because being on the margin gives space for change to occur. To be in the center is to be landlocked where change is difficult because space is so restricted; trying to create change at the center would mean a massive dislocation of the others also crammed into that area, there is little room for growth and less space for new thinking. When you are at the center stretching out your arms always prove to be a challenge.But when you are on the margins one can stretch, one can push to create even more space. To be on the margins is to not be locked in but to have the space and the capacity to think and act in new and creative ways because creative change, radical, revolutionary change, happens from the margins. The margins can become the seat of power and when God places us in the margins to work or to live God is giving us the ability to create change. To live on the margin is to live in the place where one can witness the evolution of power.

In a passage from the gospel of Matthew Jesus speaks to his disciples about how important it is to create a space that welcomes and receives the fellow struggler. Matthew 10:40-42

40 “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; 42 and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”

You cannot go wrong in creating and maintaining a welcoming place. There is no downside because the work itself of welcoming will not only lead to the reward but is itself the reward. We know that it is not just Carmella and her family who benefit from a place of sanctuary; we all benefit in some way. Regardless of color or ethnicity.

Regardless of age and regardless of wealth. We benefit ourselves when we love radically. We benefit ourselves when stand for and with each other to fight for justice and a place at the table.

The Advocate remains committed to clothing people for today and growing the spirits of people for tomorrow when we can all have a place at the table or until we will work to build a new table together. Let’s continue to build this new table together.

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Immigrant led Community Organizing

Our staff manages our campaigns and programs while our members join our working committees to inform our programming, choose our campaigns, and plan our strategies to win. Through conversation and listening, our members and the community on the ground are the ones directing the organization. When people reach out to NSM, they connect with someone who speaks their language, looks like them, and is committed to empowering immigrant communities because they understand their journey and struggle. At NSM, our communities see their peers guiding our mission, creating trust, and allowing members to recognize NSM as an immigrant-led organization.
NSM works to lift the skills of the affected community and dismantle systems of oppression while promoting systems of mutual support, collective liberation, and respect for all people, which is why we provide interpretation services, respect childcare needs, schedule our sessions during times that work best for members who work multiple jobs or cannot meet in person, and allow members to inform us about their individual needs before meetings.
The community leads our work at every level to eliminate unnecessary barriers and meet the varied needs of our members.

Leadership Development

Our Leadership Development Program is a step in recruiting and training new leaders and training. The program blends the skills and experiences members bring from their home countries with NSM’s signature faith-rooted and anti-racist organizing model.

We have curricula for each level of membership, which includes workshops on the history of detention, community organizing, nonviolent protest, campaign strategy, and ongoing anti-racism training. Our programming encourages immigrant leaders to find their voice, understand the power of collective resistance, and join a community of immigrant leaders fighting for transformational systemic changes rooted in social and economic justice.

Leading this initiative is Bertha Murcia, one of NSM's Community Organizers. She is an alumna of NSM’s Promotoras de Justicia immigrant leadership program and oversees member engagement.

Build Community Power

NSM’s organizing efforts emphasize community building, inviting people to new roles, deepening Black and Brown solidarity, long-term leadership development, and impactful campaigns.

We build a base of people from our 33 congregations and Accompaniment Team and direct that people-power to fight specific campaigns. Staff members work with immigrant members to choose our campaigns, guide our strategies, lead events, and ensure our work is focused on meeting the needs of Philadelphia’s various immigrant communities.

Having a hands-on role in changing policy allows our members to gain a sense of empowerment, confidence, and self-respect. Empowering immigrants of color to organize collectively is part of NSM’s long haul work to create a people-powered movement for immigrant justice.