But what does it mean? — lots of different things to lots of different people, whether you are debating the meaning of song lyrics or whether your city should become one. About two weeks ago was “sanctuary” week for me. It started on Monday night with my city’s vote to become a “sanctuary city” and ended on Saturday night with our reunion with three daughters from the Vietnamese “boat” family that we sponsored thirty-seven years ago.
“The approved ordinance largely solidifies a policy that the city police and city staff have unofficially taken up and adhered to for the past several years. In essence, the bill states the city, its police and its resources will not be used to interfere in immigration matters.” – The Sentinel Newspapers, 19 Apr 2017. A visiting member of our family read the ordinance and stated the opinion that it was basically a nondiscrimination measure — that no matter what their immigration status, criminals would be treated like criminals; and non-criminals would be treated like non-criminals.
Also quoted from this article by Candace Rojo Keyes, “Deni Taveras, the county councilwoman for District 2, was also present at the meeting and said she was excited for Hyattsville residents on the historic night. Taveras, along with Mayor Candace Hollingsworth and Councilman Joseph Solomon, visited Rosa Parks Elementary School last week to talk to families about immigration issues. ‘I heard the worry of the children, the worry of the teachers. There is a heightened awareness of the fear of families being ripped apart,’ Tavaras said. ‘I’m just elated that this council had the heart to keep an open mind.'” Of course, this reminds us of families being ripped apart during slavery.
When President Trump issued his Muslim and refugee bans, friends commiserated with us, saying that they remembered the Vietnamese family of 12 that we sponsored 37 years ago — our Methodist church congregation, along with the Amish congregation in the community where we lived.
Three daughters from this family visited us at the end of my “sanctuary week.” It had been twenty years since we last saw them when they visited from California. They were ages 2, 7, and 15 when they arrived in this country. For thirty-seven years this family has been profusely thanking us for sponsoring them. On this particular Saturday night, they kept asking, “How did this happen?” We tackled the answer from the operational viewpoint. I started by reminding them that I had served in Vietnam. My wife added that when I was a young homebuilder, my supplier, National Homes, put out a request for builders who were receiving house packages (walls and building materials) to send back on the truck furniture donations for the Johnstown flood victims. One of the responses to my request to the town, Oakland, Maryland, came from the Amish bishop, whose community helped fill the truck with furniture. So I called upon him again when we wanted to sponsor a Vietnamese “boat” family, and the Amish joined forces with the Methodists. The Amish even had a house to contribute.
One of the young women waited patiently through this explanation, but then explained that what she really wanted to know was “why” we did this — what motivated us to reach out to sponsor a refugee family. (We were at a loss other than attributing to values we absorbed from church and home). She reflected upon the mood of many in the country today who are unwilling to help refugees or undocumented people who are fleeing danger and especially the impact upon children when a parent is deported. She also brought up the practical point that when parents are taken out of the picture, it costs a lot of money for the State to raise a child and increases their susceptibility to gangs and other negative influences of growing up without a parent.
One of them said she had read my novel Cologne No. 10 for Men and liked it. We said we had wondered whether her family would be offended by it and its satire. She assured me that she wasn’t. After dinner she bought a copy of Well Considered before leaving Busboys and Poets after we told her that the novel takes place in this county where she was visiting. The young women had been very interested in hearing all about Hyattsville and its welcoming atmosphere, although Well Considered takes place in a different part of the County.
Continuing to thank us profusely, they departed and went on their way to Garrett County to visit other sponsors there, including the Amish family who housed them during their one year in snow country (before moving to California) while others in the community provided transportation, English tutoring, medical and dental needs, etc.