“Sanctuary” – Dr. Diane Steinman on Responding to the Plight of Refugees and Undocumented Immigrants

February 21st,2017 ICNY Podcasts

Maggi Van Dorn (pictured l.) with Diane Steinman

From the first week of President Trump’s administration, refugee and immigration issues have become a pressing moral concern for many Americans, with New York City taking center stage as demonstrations spring up everywhere and Mayor de Blasio upholds our status as a “Sanctuary City.”  Even before President Trump launched aggressive new policies targeting undocumented immigrants this week, the Washington Post reported that the number of houses of worship that have declared themselves sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants has doubled nationwide over the past year, while DNAInfo described local congregations signing on to shelter immigrants.  New Yorkers of faith are looking to their religious leaders for guidance, who in turn are gathering to share information and resources.  A lot is happening very quickly and people feel the need to understand not just the events themselves, but what they and their communities can do.

In this latest episode of the “Interfaith Matters” podcast series, Maggi Van Dorn responds to that need through a conversation with Dr. Diane Steinman, the Director of the New York State Interfaith Network for Immigration Reform. In this brief interview, Dr. Steinman offers listeners:

  • A multi-faith appreciation of human value, that resonates with America’s foundational understanding of equality
  • A history of the “Sanctuary City” movement, and the ways such policies have protected both undocumented immigrants and American citizens
  • Immediate steps that faith leaders and communities can take to join the growing advocacy movement, including providing Sanctuary in houses of worship

Citing Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Hindu sacred texts, Dr. Steinman points out that every faith tradition emphasizes the inherent dignity and value of all people – and perhaps especially of people in need, or in crisis.  “We are [therefore] obligated,” Dr. Steinman asserts, “to repudiate the anti-Muslim thrust of Trump’s rhetoric and policies, because every human being … must be treated with dignity, respect, and compassion.”  In the justly famous language of the American Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

“Notice,” Dr. Steinman reminds us, that the founders “did not limit this [vision of human dignity and equality] to people already on American shores.”

For the rest of our rich conversation with Dr. Diane Steinman, please listen, download, and subscribe to the podcast on or our website or any of these services:


Have a question for Dr. Diane Steinman? Want to become connected to the New York State Interfaith Network for Immigration Reform? Leave a comment on your podcatcher or email us at socialmedia@interfaithcenter.org.

And to join the movement for immigrant justice that Dr. Steinman describes, we encourage you to take the following steps:

  • Call the New York State Hotline 888.769.7243 for any issues related to loved ones who are detained, missing, or have their freedom to travel restricted as a result of recent federal actions

“Whatever we do,” Dr. Steinman reminds us in the podcast, “we have to lift our voices, we have to remind our city and our nation of the moral imperative to treat everyone with dignity, respect, and compassion, and to ensure that our city remains a welcoming home to all.”


ICNY’s Interfaith Matters podcast series is co-produced by Maggi Van Dorn and Kevin Childress for The Interfaith Center of New York.


Special Invitation to New York City Religious and Civic Leaders

As noted above, ICNY is holding a full-day conference for New York’s religious and civic leaders on April 5th, exploring the emerging challenges for religious leadership under the presidency of Donald Trump.  Please click here to register for Hospitality in a Time of Hate: Religious Leadership for an Inclusive City under the Trump Administration.  Participation is entirely free, thanks in part to a grant from the Fellowship in Prayer.


The Interfaith Center of New York’s work is dependent upon contributions from people like you.  Please consider making a tax-deductible donation today.

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