“Seeing Sanctuary” explores the practice and labeling of immigrant sanctuaries in the Trump era of migration enforcement and family separation. The essay utilizes the case of a class visit to a migrant sanctuary in Amherst, Massachusetts, and explores the challenges, rewards, and sense of futility from this flawed but necessary form of accompaniment. In March of 2018, my “History of Deportation” class visited Lucio Pérez, a Guatemalan migrant and nineteen-year resident of Massachusetts, who resides in sanctuary at the First Congregational Church. At this writing, in August 2020, thirty-five months since he entered the church, Pérez is still in sanctuary. Facing deportation in October 2017, Pérez sought refuge, five months prior to our class visit. The essay, drawing from the public narrative of Pérez, distinguishes the open defiance of Pérez’s sanctuary from the broader “sanctuary city” efforts at non-compliance with federal enforcement schemes.
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