There has been talk of sanctuary churches as of late, and I got to thinking how these could be a positive rather than further division in our nation.
From Wikipedia, we have this ancient description of Sanctuary in English Common law:
Church sanctuaries were regulated by common law. An asylum seeker had to confess his sins, surrender his weapons, and permit supervision by church or abbey organization with jurisdiction. They then had forty days to decide whether to surrender to secular authorities and stand trial for their alleged crimes, or to confess their guilt, abjure the realm, and go into exile by the shortest route and never return without the king's permission. Those who did return faced execution under the law and/or excommunication from the Church.
If the suspect chose to confess their guilt and abjure, they did so in a public ceremony, usually at the church gates. They would surrender their possessions to the church, and any landed property to the crown. The coroner, a medieval official, would then choose a port city from which the fugitive should leave England (though the fugitive sometimes had this privilege). The fugitive would set out barefooted and bareheaded, carrying a wooden cross-staff as a symbol of protection under the church. Theoretically they would stay to the main highway, reach the port and take the first ship out of England. In practice, however, the fugitive could get a safe distance away, abandon the cross-staff and take off and start a new life. However, one can safely assume the friends and relatives of the victim knew of this ploy and would do everything in their power to make sure this did not happen; or indeed that the fugitive never reached their intended port of call, becoming a victim of vigilante justice under the pretense of a fugitive who wandered too far off the main highway while trying to "escape."
Knowing the grim options, some fugitives rejected both choices and opted for an escape from the asylum before the forty days were up. Others simply made no choice and did nothing. Since it was illegal for the victim's friends to break into an asylum, the church would deprive the fugitive of food and water until a decision was made.
This, to me seems close to workable as a way for Churches, especially Catholic Churches, to fulfill their sacred duty of mercy to the immigrant, while staying on the right side of the law.
I thus propose that the Church make the following deal with the Department of Homeland Security:
1. If any undocumented person comes into a Catholic Church, places his hand on the Altar, and requests Asylum, that person shall be granted the right to ask a member of that Parish for a place to stay for 180 days maximum.
2. That person is safe from deportation for 180 days.
3. The person will be reported to DHS, and a process will be started to vet the individual. This process is to take no more than 180 days.
4. The person themselves will devote themselves to prayer, confession, and discussion with the parish priest. The purpose of these discussions is to decide between one of the following three options:
a. Documentation- If no other impediment exists, becoming a permanent resident with the intention of naturalized citizenship.
b. Leave Asylum and turn oneself into authorities for the normal justice process.
c. Confess guilt, Receive absolution for eternal sins, and the church will help the person to sell all his worldly posessions and self-deport with the help of the international worldwide church.
Of course, in this 180 day process, any other concerns of family and friends must be taken into consideration.
Of course, this presupposes a modernization of the entire immigration process, to the point where such a decision can be made in 180 days. The United States does NOT have a good track record on this.