Edmonds UMC News

Thoughts on the Immigration Sanctuary Proposal

My name is Ken Pickle.  I have been a member of this church since 1981.  I have been on the Ad Board (now called the Church Council) and also a Trustee.  I now am one of the church volunteer sound techs.   

I am not an attorney nor an insurance agent, and the views I present are mine alone. 

I am not speaking for anyone else. However, I will point out that our stewardship campaign head, Chuck Maki, thinks as many as 50 families are against our church offering sanctuary. I suspect that these 50 families have 50 different reasons for being against this proposal.  However, I do want to make a couple of things clear.  The fact we are against sanctuary does not mean we are anti-immigrants.   

Our daughter is married to an immigrant, and I have a cousin in Lake Forest Park with 2 beautiful Chinese daughters.  And my wife has studied in both Mexico and the University of Madrid.   

I would like to preface my remarks by saying that I am amazed and humbled by the wonderful work that our immigration team has done and continues to do.  And I feel that Kassie Goforth should be nominated for sainthood.  That being said, I am against our church becoming a sanctuary church.  Here’s why: 

I’m going to do something a little different, and start with my biggie(Normally a presenter would build to a conclusion.)   

First, I do not feel we have the right to put our trustees in financial peril.  What do I mean?  We know that it’s a crime to harbor an undocumented immigrant.  Now, it is not a crime for them to be living in the church.  They likely will be going through the legalities of the immigration or asylum process.  However, once their deportation date arrives, then it becomes a crime.   

No one is going to come to the church and arrest anyone from the church.  In fact, they won’t even come for our sanctuary guest—unless they have committed a serious crime.   

The fact that this act is a crime triggers the exclusion clause on our Trustees’ liability policy.  What this means, in layman’s terms, is that in the remote chance we are sued because of something our sanctuary guest did (molestation, etc), we would have no insurance.  Our Trustees would be on the hook for everything.  That’s why seven of our nine trustees are against us being a sanctuary church.  And their personal homeowners and/umbrella policies would not help because they have same exclusions.  All insurance policies exclude illegal or criminal acts.  I have a 34-year career with Safeco.  Though I did not work in the Underwriting Department, I did earn my CPCU designation, which is sort of like having a Masters degree in Insurance.  I asked two local insurance agents what they would do if they were one of our Trustees.  They both said they would resign.  Even if we could find a carrier to provide a rider, they would still resign because they would be on such thin ice.  

Secondly, I feel it’s too much effort for too little gain.  Most of my adult life has involved project management type work, and the numbers just don’t justify it.  Too many people, too much money, just to help one family.  You might say that $8,000 is not that much money; but that’s just for the first six months.  Feeding and housing is not that expensive, it’s making up their lost income that runs into money.  The average sanctuary guest stays one to two years; then the next one moves in. So this is forever! In essence we are writing a blank check with no end. 

Third, space in our building is a premium.  Our office is fantastic at juggling groups, and it seems like various rooms are being utilized at all hours of the day.  But this would take at least one room out of circulation, and perhaps as many as three.  And we are kicking out Kids in Transition, an organization that supports 400 homeless teenagers.   

Fourth, I know that we as a church are proud of our heritage of caring.  But if we are doing this very public statement just to show we care, it’s not necessary.  Edmonds already knows we are a caring congregation—by the food bank, the tutoring program, the toy shop.  By the way, all these groups are in need of new volunteers.  There are several in all these groups that are nearing burnout—they need a break.  It’s important to manage our assets wisely.  

Several months ago, when we first were looking at this issue, I came across a homeless man sleeping in the doorway.  (7:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning.)  I made him a cup of hot tea and gave him a power bar.  I told Coralie about him and she went down to check on him.  When she returned, she said his name is Patrick Henry, he’s 39 years old, and he wants to go “home” (as she points to the sky.) So here we have a homeless man who wants to commit suicide and has neither the means or the will to do so; and he’s here legally.  Why shouldn’t He take priority?! 

Bob Schroff, aka Mr. Bob, --who is close to sainthood himself—volunteers in our tutoring program.  His new client is a 10-year-old from Venezuela.  Bob says he’s sharp as he can be.  He has an 8-year-old brother we had to turn down because we don’t have enough tutors. 

With all that this church has going on, this is not the time to start a new program.  We are not doing justice to what’s on our plate now.   

A few of you are aware that in addition to my Safeco career, I also had a career in the Navy.  I spent 6.5 years on active duty as a Naval Flight Officer (EW) and then 22 in the reserves.  In my reserve career I was fortunate to serve as the commanding officer of five different units.  One of these units was the NCIS unit at Bangor.  The unit was full of King County and Seattle police and other law enforcement personnel from all over the Pacific Northwest.  It was a great group of professionals—the head of the K-9 unit, the chief hostage negotiator, etc.  We didn’t have any ICE people, but one thing I do know:  Even more than us, ICE wants the immigration laws fixed.  They are very frustrated working with our existing laws.   

By the way, ICE does a lot more than immigration enforcement: they are the lead agency in cyber-crimes, child exploitation, bulk cash smuggling, antiquities investigations, mass-marketing fraud, and some terrorism cases.  They are not our enemy.   

I live near Five Corners.  The speed limit on our street is only 25 MPH.  I feel it should be at least 30.  And if that sneaky Edmonds motorcycle cop catches me speeding, it’s not his/or her fault.  It’s mine.  If I feel strongly enough about this, I need to go to the city of Edmonds to get it changed.   

The immigration mess we are in was caused by Congress; and Congress is the only one that can fix it.  And yet, none of our efforts have been directed toward them? 

And our two senators are senior enough they should be able to get some traction on this issue.  Why can’t we have a social media and/or snail mail campaign encouraging them to make immigration reform a higher priority?  I would certainly support this. 

We are a nation of laws.  If we can pick and choose which laws we obey, rather than having our lawmakers change them, then we are doomed as a nation.  In fact, why even have a Congress?  (We would save a lot of money) 

I realize that lobbying congress is not near as glamorous as being a sanctuary church.  But we will be addressing the cause of our problems, not just putting a band-aid on the symptoms.  Basically, a sanctuary church is mostly just making a political statement. And I don’t believe that the Kathlyn James Fund was created to be used for political statements.  Also, I don’t believe we should be giving even the perception that we are encouraging anyone to do anything illegal.  

How do you feel about the sheriffs in Eastern Washington?  The ones that says they are not going to enforce the new gun regulations because they disagree with them?  If we become a sanctuary church, we are validating their actions. 

Some say that churches have a history of civil disobedience.  What about all the work the churches did for civil rights?  I agree that was an effective use of civil disobedience; but those were local and state laws that were unconstitutional.  These immigration laws are federal laws and constitutional.  They just need to be fixed!  Congress needs to do their job! 

After we had the first sessions on “sanctuary”, I met with some key members of the immigration team.  After praying about the issue for a number of nights, I offered this suggestion: 

What if we quietly brought in a carefully selected sanctuary guest, advised ICE of who we had, but did not do the press releases?  That way we wouldn’t impact the children’s center, food bank, and attract the kooks.  They responded, “Oh no, we have to have the press releases!”  That just told me that it’s not about helping the family at all, but all about the political statement.   

What average Edmonds citizen, upon reading that press release, will think “This will make congress get their act together!”  Of course, they won’t.  It’s all about making a political statement against the current administration.   

The Good Samaritan did not get up on a big rock, beat his chest, and brag about all the good he has done; and neither should we.   

So in conclusion, this is not the time to be taking on a new project; we just have too much going on, both as a denomination and as a church.  We should not be writing a blank check--no dollar amount and no time limit.  And we should not be throwing our trustees under the bus! 

Declining to be a sanctuary church does not mean we don’t love and support our immigration team.  They are doing the Lord’s work in a magnificent way.   

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