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Latest Client News

Our newest client, YD, a 35 year old Eritrean man, was accepted into our program in December 2014.  He had been forced to live outside his own country since the Ethiopian civil war, and spent several years living and working in multiple African countries, South America, and ultimately found himself in detention facilities in the US, first in the South, then in NJ, before coming to our attention.  He is still awaiting his asylum hearing but is able to live with a family in the Englewood area, and is studying at Bergen Community College for his GED.

Bergen Sanctuary Says Good-Bye to One Client and Welcomes a New Client into the Program

The Sanctuary Committee is pleased to announce that Adama, one of its clients of long-standing, is moving to the New Brunswick area to begin a new job at the Robert Wood Johnson hospital.

Adama, who comes from Sierra Leone, entered our program almost four years ago. At 18, she was the youngest person to be in the Sanctuary, having just finished high school in Mississippi as an exchange student.

Through the generosity of a benefactor she was able to begin a nursing program at Bergen Community College and will be completing her LPN degree at a program in Newark. She also received training as a home health aide, and has worked in that field. Having lived with several host families in the Sanctuary program, Adama moved to Essex County about a year ago and lived on her own in both Irvington and Newark. The Sanctuary Committee continued to help subsidize her rent and assist her in many other ways.

Special recognition and praise go to Ms. Eva Sandroff, Adama’s case manager, whose devotion went far beyond what duty required in supporting Adama very diligently over the past four years.

The Committee celebrated Adama’s formally leaving our program with a luncheon held at a restaurant in Millburn, NJ in late November. We wish her the very best.

Shortly before Adama’s leaving, the Sanctuary program welcomed in a new client, Ms. Mohammed, who comes from Darfur. Ms. Mohammed is a political asylee, having received asylum status after arriving in the US in 2011. Ms. Mohammed is a women’s health activist and has a degree from a university in the Sudan. She is currently living with a host in Bergen County while she pursues her search for employment.

Ms. Mohammed has already visited several constituent congregations in the Sanctuary movement. She very much wishes to discuss the situation in Darfur before public audiences and to pursue a masters degree in human rights.

Mission Statement

The purpose of the Sanctuary Committee is to serve as a sponsor for people who have applied for political asylum and been released from federal detention, and for selected other asylum seekers.

Among the services the Committee provides are housing, medical care, financial support, educational opportunities, language instruction, transportation, recreational opportunities, and liaison with attorneys.

The goal is to help the asylees establish themselves and achieve durable self-sufficiency, with care and support greatest in the beginning and less as they become increasingly independent and able to support themselves.

The Bergen County Sanctuary Committee for Asylum Seekers* is a growing coalition of religious congregations, human rights organizations, affiliated groups and individuals who have joined together to provide humanitarian support and advocacy to men and women who have fled persecution in their native countries and are seeking political asylum in the United States.
Since 1996, the policy of the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement
(formerly the Immigration and Naturalization Service) has been to detain these individuals in federal detentions center pending the adjudication of their asylum claims. The government maintains such a detention center in Elizabeth, New Jersey, off of exit 13A on the New Jersey Turnpike. Asylum seekers are detained in grim surroundings for periods, some in excess of four years, though they have committed no crimes. Many are traumatized individuals, and significant numbers are victims of torture. In each jurisdiction the director of the detention center can decide to “parole” selective individuals into the general community pending his or her asylum hearing. Recent surveys have shown that the New Jersey jurisdiction is the harshest in the country with fewer than 3.8% of all detainees released prior to their hearing.

The mission of the Sanctuary program is to provide assistance to individuals who are released and to publicize the injustice suffered by those who languish in detention with a view toward reforming the process. Among the services the Sanctuary Committee provides for asylum seekers are housing, medical care, financial support, language instruction, transportation, recreational opportunities and liaison with attorneys. The Sanctuary also provides support for individuals who have won political asylum for periods up to six month to assist them in moving toward independence in the American context, as well as asylum seekers who arrive on legal visas, and thus avoid detention.

The Committee has provided for a young asylum seeker from Congo, an asylum seeker from Egypt, a woman from Kenya, from the former French Congo, Cameroon and is currently assisting asylum seekers from Sierra Leone and the Darfur region of Sudan.

Congregations and other organizations affiliated with and supporting the Bergen County Sanctuary Committee include the Ethical Culture Society of Bergen County (Teaneck), St. Mark’s Episcopal Church (Teaneck), The Central Unitarian Church (Paramus), The Unitarian Society of Ridgewood (Ridgewood), Dar ul Islah Mosque (Teaneck), Temple Emeth (Teaneck), The Interreligious Action Team- Elizabeth (IRATE), First Friends, Human Rights First, the American Friends Service Committee, The International Institute of Jersey City, and the Bellevue/NYU Program for Survivors of Torture, The Bergen County Volunteer Medical Initiative.

The Bergen County Sanctuary for Asylum Seekers welcomes support from individuals and organizations that share our purposes.

Dr. Joseph Chuman, President

*The Bergen County Sanctuary Committee is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation