Report by Kat Liu, UUA Witness Ministries Program Associate
Buoyed by the historic passage of DREAM in the House of Representatives on Wednesday evening, and mindful that the prospects for a Senate vote are much more uncertain, several members of the Interfaith Immigration Coalition (IIC), including yours truly representing the UUA, decided to visit some key senators yesterday morning, before what was scheduled to be the 11 am vote on DREAM.
The DREAM Act would provide a pathway for earned citizenship to millions of undocumented young adults who were brought to this country by their parents as children and have since grown up in this country. The U.S. is their country in every way except for legal status.
The senate offices that we visited were those on this target list: http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=133732793349034
I won’t bore you by describing every office visit. And the few juicy tidbits about who is leaning in what direction, I’m not at liberty to say publicly. But there are two really strong impressions that I would like to share with you.
One was the fact that in every office we visited the phones were ringing off the hooks. As we waited in the seating area of various offices to see if a staffer could/would come out to see us, we could hear that the majority of the calls were about the DREAM Act. The poor folks answering the phones looked like they had been going at this rate for days. I almost felt sorry for them, but at the same time I know that this is democracy in action.
The phone call to your elected official is many times more powerful than the vote you cast in the ballot box in terms of influencing what becomes our national laws.
In the few cases where the receptionist’s ear was not glued to the phone, we asked what direction the calls were going in. ‘50/50’ or ‘pretty even’ was the answer.
With things so tight, every phone call that we make to stand on the side of love counts.
The second impression I had was when we walked into Senator Lugar’s office. As you may or may not know, Sen. Lugar of Indiana was one of the original sponsors of the DREAM Act and had long been a proponent, but in these crazy partisan times, the Republican senator is now threatening to vote against his own bill.
A group of roughly a dozen young adults, many wearing colorful graduation mortar boards made out of construction paper, were gathered in a circle on the office floor, praying. They looked like they had been there for a while. They were so quiet and unobtrusive, and yet so persistent and impossible to ignore. I wish to God I had a camera then and could have shared the image with all of you. Their presence reminded me of why I am doing this work.
In truth, I was originally against the DREAM Act, having the same reservations that many Unitarian Universalists and other progressive people of faith have. From the provisions, it’s clear that one of the motivations for DREAM was to attract more recruits to the military. What changed my mind was the DREAM Act activists (or DREAMers, as they are called). These young women and men are publicly stating their undocumented status and going directly to elected officials to ask them to support their dream of being productive U.S. citizens.
They are willing to risk everything. How could I not support that?
In one of the last offices that we visited, we learned from the television tuned to C-SPAN that the Senate had tabled the vote on the DREAM Act scheduled for yesterday morning. The reason why Sen. Reid tabled his own bill is because there weren’t enough ‘YES’ votes in the senate to pass it.
The good news is that this gives us more time to change some senators’ minds.
So I am asking you to take action.
Based on what I saw yesterday – the calls coming into the Senate offices are so close, and the DREAMers need our help.
Call your senators – both of them – and urge them to support the DREAM Act. The Capital switchboard number is (202) 224-3121.
Blog post courtesy of Betty Jeanne Rueters-Ward, Youth and Young Adult Program Coordinator, Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock
On Thursday, Dec. 9th, Unitarian Universalist Standing on the Side of Love activists joined an extensive coalition of immigration advocacy groups, politicians and other supporters, rallying in the wind and cold in front of New York Governor David Paterson’s Manhattan office. The coalition called on the Governor, now in his final month in office, to rescind New York’s agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to bring the Secure Communities Program (S-Comm) to New York State.
Manisha Vaze of Families for Freedom, a member of the New York State Working Group to Stop Deportation, explained, “We cannot let our state’s scarce resources fund a program that erodes trust with the police, encourages racial profiling, and funnels our immigrants into an unjust deportation system.”
The broad and visible Standing on the Side of Love presence included leaders from the Community Church (UU) of New York, NY; the UU Congregation of the Palisades in Englewood, NJ; the UU Fellowship of Northern Westchester in Mount Kisko, NY; the UU Congregation of Shelter Rock in Manhasset, NY; the Unitarian Church of Staten Island, NY; the Unitarian Church of Summit, NJ; and the UU Congregation of Queens, NY, including its new immigration initiative, the UU Justice Ministry.
UU ministers Rev. Anthony Johnson, the Rev. Susan Karlson, and the Rev. Dr. Michael Tino were among the multi-religious group of clergy supporters. The Rev. Bruce Southworth, Senior Minister of the Community Church of New York, was asked by the coalition to speak for the faith community.
“Our immigration laws and policies, and too many of the proposals for reform, are in so many ways short-sighted, racist, fear-based, and belittling of our nation’s values and ideals,” he told the crowd. “We seek due process and respectful treatment for all. As one human family, we seek to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God. Governor Paterson, we ask you to join us this day in standing on the side of love and justice.”
Watch the video to hear more of his comments.
Rev. Southworth’s Community Church has been a member of the New Sanctuary Movement since 2008. In addition to advocating for immigrant rights and immigration reform, they have provided assistance to a Sengalese mother of six citizen children who is fighting deportation.
Following the rally, Rev. Southworth joined a delegation to deliver a letter directly to Gov. Paterson’s staff. Shortly after, a federal judge in the Southern District of New York, presiding over NDLON v. ICE, heard arguments in a request for an emergency injunction, which would order ICE to disclose documents on how localities can opt out of the S-Comm.
The Rev. Michael Tino, minister of the UU Fellowship of Northern Westchester in Mount Kisko, NY said, “Enlisting local and state law enforcement in federal immigration enforcement creates an atmosphere of mistrust in which immigrants who are victims of crimes are afraid to report them. People of all political persuasions should oppose policies that make certain people easy prey for violent criminals. Standing on the side of love to me means working together for a future in which all people are free from violence and discrimination.”
We need you to join us in calling on Gov. Paterson to rescind New York’s agreement to participate in the Secure Communities Program during this, his final month in office. The Governor has called the current immigration system inhumane and has extended pardons to dozens of immigrants caught up in unjust deportation proceedings. S-Comm undermines all that he has done. The time to act is now.
Please join us in Standing on the Side of Love and sign and circulate the petition here at
Dan Furmansky is the Campaign Manager of the Standing on the Side of Love Campaign
-Rev. Theresa Novak, UU Church of Ogden, Utah
Across the country, we are standing with those who face marginalization and discrimination – and we are doing so visibly.
In the past few weeks alone, we marched under the banner of Love in Hartford, CT, demanding action on a transgender anti-discrimination bill. We served as a calming presence when Nazis held an anti-immigrant march in Phoenix. We intervened in Framingham and East Lansing and Woodbridge when the hate-mongering Westboro Baptist Church came to intimidate high school students.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg.
At each of these social justice actions, our message has been bolstered by our visual presence. Our bright yellow t-shirts, banners, and signs identify Standing on the Side of Love supporters as a united group with a clear message. Because of our bold visibility, our message of inclusion and love receives incredible attention from allies and from the media.
When we created this campaign, we hoped the yellow t-shirts, banners and signs would convey real meaning, but we have been truly blown away by their tremendous power. As a result, we have redone our store to make it more user-friendly, and to provide you more options for visibility. We now even have cold weather apparel to take your activism into the winter months.
Some of the new items in our store include:
- Long Sleeve T-shirts, Sweatshirts, and Hoodies to help keep love on display all year round;
- A wider diversity of fits for our Signature t-shirts, from Youth sizes to 4 XL; and
- Our new Women’s Cut T-shirt with a more contoured cut.
Everything in our store is made in the United States by union shops. There is now no requirement to purchase in bulk, and we can customize just about anything to fit your needs. Best of all, proceeds support the social justice work of the Standing on the Side of Love Campaign.
After seeing a Standing on the Side of Love public witness taking place out of state on her local TV news, Gina Whitaker from Arroyo Grande, California, told us, “It was awesome to see those shirts, popping out visually, signifying faith in action, walking our talk, and setting an example!”
Clearly, these aren’t just T-shirts or signs we are talking about. This is faith in action.
Upon returning from Phoenix this summer, Rev. David Miller of the UU Fellowship of San Dieguito, CA, summed it up: “There we were, in our orange-ish yellow shirts, in mass, with the giant word LOVE on our chests,” he said. “Excuse the old marketing guy in me, but there it was, our brand, we were being called ‘the love people.’”
“The Love People” – a badge of honor we wear with pride!
Visit our new store today, join the growing community of “Love People,” and live your values in a visible way.
This is also a great opportunity to make sure you have your yellow shirts and banners for your National Standing on the Side of Love Day events on or around February 14th.More >
Since Nov. 23, seven different incidents of vandalism aimed at the Jewish community of Bloomington, Indiana have been reported to campus and city police. The UU Church of Bloomington has joined with other community leaders to condemn these acts, and stand on the side of love.
Co-ministers Reverend Mary Ann Macklin and Reverend Bill Breeden sent out a Ministers Column to their congregation members and friends. They said:
At our worship services on Sunday we also responded to the recent acts of violence and bigotry against the Jewish community. Our choir under the direction of Sue Swaney sang “Oseh Shalom” the words of which translate: May he who makes peace in the heavens, grant peace to us and to all our people, And let us say Amen.” Reverend Emily Manvel Leite conducted our own Menorah Lighting, an annual event honoring Jewish families, members and friends within our congregation, the wisdom of the Jewish tradition within our liberal religious tradition, and also our Jewish sisters and brothers throughout the world. The children’s included stories of how people of courage have responded to bigotry and hatred with nonviolence and solidarity. The ministers encouraged everyone to take home the image of a Menorah which was a paper insert in the Order of Service.
On Sunday evening, Reverend Bill Breeden attended another event of solidarity announced in the Herald Times and our worship services. He marched proudly with our Unitarian Universalist Banner to the Chabad House, along with other Unitarian Universalists, to join a diverse crowd from our Bloomington community. There was singing, dancing and the lighting of a large Menorah by Bloomington Mayor Mark Kruzan.
The Herald-Times reported on the solidarity event:
Bill and Glenda Breeden joined the crowd with a flag from Bloomington’s Unitarian Universalist Church. Glenda Breeden said she believes all people should be able to walk on whatever spiritual path they choose: “It’s everyone’s right to express themselves as they will.”
Standing on the side of love means standing in solidarity against oppression and violence, she said.
Bill Breeden, co-minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church, called the recent acts of anti-Semitic vandalism “heartbreaking” and an “assault on all of us.” Members of the church lit a menorah during their Sunday services, as well, he said.
Across the country, people are proving that when the Westboro Baptist Church is forced into the shadows of resounding love, there is virtually no room left for their inarticulate hate message.
Last week, Westboro came to Massachusetts to “protest” Framingham High School’s production of the Laramie Project, as well as an Islamic center and a Jewish community center.
The MetroWest Daily News Reported:
When the Westboro picketers departed around 7:15 a.m., the protesters on the other side of the street waved at them, and some shouted: “We love you.”
Ellen Cormier of Framingham, who helped hold a banner saying “Standing on the Side of Love,” said she wanted to drown out the Westboro group’s message.
“I think the country needs to know that love will always triumph over hatred,” she said. “I support equal rights for everybody.”
Members of First Parish in Framingham, a 300-year-old Unitarian Universalist church located at 24 Vernon St., and other community supporters didn’t just show up at the Framingham High School protest at 6 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 3 to “Stand on the Side of Love” to counteract Westboro protestors; many are part of the stage production. For the church’s minister, Rev. Kathleen Hepler, art imitates life; she portrays the UU minister in the play.
According to Dawna Leger Phillips, formerly of Kansas but now a Framingham resident, “There were at least 100 people on the Standing on the Side of Love side – high school and college students, young adults, middle age adults, elders. [On the other side] there were 5 people from the Westboro Baptist Church – Shirley Phelps, an adult man and three young children – and probably 5 more local people showed up on their side.”
The messages of love didn’t end there.
The Rev. Cynthia A. Frado of the Unitarian Universalist Congregational Society of Westborough, Mass. was the lead signatory to an interfaith letter penned by the Westborough Interfaith Clergy Association, condemning local actions by the hateful Westboro Baptist Church.
“Whatever our individual theological perspectives might be, we all stand on the side of love,” said the clergy members, who range from Jewish and Methodist to Roman Catholic and Evangelical Lutheran.
In the end, while the name “Westboro Baptist Church” is one people will recognize, the message in this community is clear — love is a most powerful force to be reckoned with.More >