Across history and throughout nations, people have found ways to accompany, shelter, and defend the rights of those who are at risk of violence in its many forms. UUSC’s Congregational Accompaniment Project for Asylum Seekers (CAPAS) is an initiative to support communities of faith as they host and accompany migrants through the process of obtaining legal asylum. It was officially launched in February 2020, building on several months of pilot work with nearly two dozen UU congregations. The project’s goal is to support congregations in sponsoring an individual or family seeking asylum in the United States, as one form of solidarity and resistance to our government’s xenophobic immigration policies. Such sponsorship includes housing the migrant(s), often for as long as a year, and accompanying them through their asylum process.
If you are interested in learning more about CAPAS, please begin by gathering a team of five to seven members from your congregation or community, and together reviewing our CAPAS Handbook. Once you have completed this first step, fill out this form to register your readiness, and we will contact you.
Please note that legal issues and provisions for migrants are changing often these days. Always check with competent legal advisors to verify current rules and regulations as they apply to your situation and location.
Questions and Answers
Is this the same thing as offering Sanctuary to a migrant? No. Through the Sanctuary program, a migrant who has temporarily exhausted their legal options and is under a deportation order takes shelter within the building of a faith community. The migrant cannot leave church property without risking deportation, so in a sense must live under house arrest. In contrast, CAPAS is a way to accompany and shelter migrants who are somewhere within the asylum process; though they lack permanent status, they are legally present in the US as they pursue their claim. More details about the distinction between CAPAS and Sanctuary can be found in our Handbook.
How do we get involved with CAPAS? The first step is to thoroughly review the CAPAS Handbook, which will answer many of the questions you may have. The second step is to pull together a team of people from your congregation who share your interest in sponsoring an asylum seeker; they too should review the Handbook. After you have completed these two steps, we invite you to fill out the application form to indicate your readiness.
How will we know whether or not our congregation is appropriate for this work? Our CAPAS Handbook begins with a thorough section on discernment, that will walk you through a series of questions that will help you decide whether or not this form of accompaniment is appropriate for your team and congregation.
What role should our minister have in this process? We know that parish ministers are busy with a wide range of congregational responsibilities, and we never expect that ministers will lead a congregation in its sponsorship. Nevertheless, it is very important that your minister be included in the conversations and discernment from the very beginning, both so they understand what’s involved and so they can offer pastoral support and encouragement to the lead volunteers.
What kind of support is available for our team if we sponsor a migrant or family? Once your team has joined CAPAS and begun the process of sponsorship, a small team of volunteer ministers and lay people, as well as staff from UUSC, are available for advice and support. In addition to our Handbook, we periodically also offer webinars and other resources to support your team.