Sanctuary Tools

Building Wisconsin's 21st Century Sanctuary Movement
WNPJ has launched a statewide campaign to defend the human rights of refugees and immigrants."

Thanks to Wisconsin abolitionists, over 100 slaves were able to escape to Canada in defiance of the Fugitive Slave Act from the 1840s through the 1860s and the start of the Civil War. This grassroots solidarity continued into the 1980s when many Wisconsin congregations and other communities declared themselves "sanctuaries" and harbored refugees fleeing U.S. sponsored state terrorism in Central America. With the arrival of Trump in the White House and the expanding ICE crackdown (that had already escalated under the Obama administration), WNPJ has launched a statewide campaign to defend the human rights of refugees and immigrants.

Since November's election WNPJ has been working with many close allies - Voces de la Frontera, Wisconsin Faith Voices for Justice, Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice, South Central Federation of Labor, and Centro Hispano, among others - to encourage the public declaration of "sanctuary" sites and to establish a "rapid response network" to provide support to those who are targeted by ICE and/or rightwing "hate" organizations for deportation and/or harassment. On March 2nd, 2017 Northland College declared itself the first "sanctuary campus" in Wisconsin, and many other faith communities, educational institutions, intentional communities. and others are expected to take a similar moral stance in the weeks ahead. Both the City of Madison and Milwaukee County have also passed resolutions declaring themselves as "sanctuary" municipalities, though it remains to be seen if local law enforcement will cooperate with ICE when expected roundups occur.

Those who are interested in supporting this latest 21st century version of the historic sanctuary movement should contact the WNPJ office to obtain background materials and learn more about how they can get involved in declaring their own local sanctuary sites and being part of a community rapid response network. Informational meetings and activist trainings for clergy and others are already being organized in the greater Madison area and could easily be replicated in other parts of the Wisconsin. Together, we can ensure that everyone - regardless of religious affiliation, status, identity, or official paperwork - have equal rights to be a vibrant diverse member of our U.S. community.

By: John E. Peck, exec. director of Family Farm Defenders and WNPJ Board Member

April 2017



  • Rapid Response Training
    Sunday April 23rd
    2:00-5:00 pm
    Madison Labor Temple


  • There are many roles for people to play in this effort.  Whether you can attend the training or not, please fill out this form if you are interested with the skills or resources that you have to offer.