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I never expected to find myself sitting in a small room to the side of the church parish hall, reading up on what to do if the family living there experiences an emergency. But there I was, doing my shift as a companion to an undocumented immigrant and her two kids, living in sanctuary.

TBE’s Immigration Justice Group joined the Newton Sanctuary and Solidarity Collaborative (NSSC) in supporting undocumented people at risk for deportation before their claim for asylum can be heard. I was one of many people making sure that at least two volunteers were in the church 24/7 in case of need. The family cannot leave the church because of the risk they will be picked up by ICE. If that were to happen, the children would be separated from their mother since she would likely be deported. The children are American citizens.

I became involved in NSSC through JCRC’s outreach to synagogues in support of the undocumented people in the Boston area. My personal role was to be in the church with a lively, curious 4 year old girl who loves to draw pictures and wanted to know everyone’s name; her older brother who was busy with sports teams, and their mom who loves to cook and worries about her kids.

Mom recently decided to leave the sanctuary. In a letter to us she wrote, “When I came into this sacred space it was for my son and daughter. In the same way, by prioritizing them, I have chosen to leave. I am still afraid. But because of my family I have chosen to confront my overwhelming reality in a different way. I am deeply grateful for your support. I always knew that if something were to happen, we would have confronted it together. I will never forget you.”

The sanctuary awaits its next resident.

Learn more about TBE’s Immigration Justice Initiative.