On Wednesday, August 24, Rev. Dr. Linda Olson Peebles and 10 members of the UU Church of Arlington, VA, joined some 300 people to testify against the U.S. Homeland Security initiative called “Secure Communities”.
A Task Force, charged with reporting back on this policy to ICE, held hearings around the nation in the past few weeks, and this one in Northern Virginia, just across the Potomac River from DC, was the last chance for people to voice concerns. The 300 immigrants, faith leaders, worker unions, lawyers and legal rights workers were joined by two members of the Arlington County Board, Walter Tejada (who attends the UU Church of Arlington) and Board Chair Chris Zimmerman. (The County Board voted last year to “opt out” of the SCOMM program, only to be told that they had to enforce this ICE initiative which has led to massive deportations of mostly innocent people).
The 300 gathered for a press conference before the hearing, and heard the stories of women taken from their children, people thrown into detention without being convicted of any misdemeanor or crime, and other stories of injustice. The group then marched to the location of the hearing, with police protection, carrying banners and shouting “Hey, Obama! Don’t Deport My Mama!”
Representatives of the Catholic, Unitarian Universalist, United Church of Christ, and Jewish faith groups spoke to the Task Force. Rev. Dr. Linda Olson Peebles spoke, following some hateful xenophobic comments from a few people supporting SCOMM, and later a woman said to the UU minister, “Thank you so much for being there today, and for being the person to speak next after that guy (who attacked Latinos). I was kind of shaken up, but as soon as I heard your name as the next speaker, I said, ‘Yes!’ What a relief that was!”
Others testifying to end SCOMM included defense lawyers, Amnesty and ACLU staff persons, the “9500 Liberty” filmmakers, community workers, and immigrants who courageously risked giving first-person stories of the way the implementation of SCOMM is affecting not the criminals in their communities, but mothers, children, and families. Halfway through the two-hour hearing, some 200 of the End-Secure-Communities group walked out and continued chanting in the courtyard facing a central Arlington commercial hub.More >
Inspired by the Midwest’s “Heartland Proclamation“ from earlier this year, a group called Southern Clergy for Inclusion has put together a “Southern Proclamation” apologizing for the faith community’s silence on LGBT equality issues. ”Proclamation” organizer Amy Hinton says, “We are asking clergy in the South to support and sign this document to show LGBT individuals and allies they do have support here in the South. So many times LGBT people are faced with rejection from the churches they have called home…We feel there should be more religious acceptance in order to bring people back into the folds of faith communities.”
The document’s introduction reads:
As people of faith:
We proclaim God’s love for all, including Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) persons and we publicly apologize where we have been silent. As reasoned people of faith we believe that the truth sets us free and we recognize that the debate concerning sexuality is over. The verdict is in. The debate should end. Homosexuality is not a sickness, not a choice, and not a sin. We find no rational biblical or theological basis to condemn or deny the rights of any person based on sexual orientation. Silence by many has allowed political and religious rhetoric to monopolize public perception, creating the impression that there is only one biblical perspective on this issue. Yet we recognize and celebrate that we are far from alone in affirming that LGBT persons are distinctive, holy, and precious gifts to all who struggle to become the family of God. The tenets of all faiths recognize that all people, no matter their color, ethnicity, sexuality or religion, are children of one God and equally loved by their creator. Further, our books of faith ask us to love God, love our neighbor, and to follow the path that leads to true justice.
Southern Clergy for Inclusion is seeking additional clergy members, faith communities, and organizations to support this effort. If you are interested, visit www.southernproclamation.us for more information.More >
Thirteen Protesters Sentenced to “Time Served” for Acts of Civil Disobedience Against SB 1070 on July 29, 2010
Rev. Peter Morales, President of the Unitarian Universalist Association, Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray of the UU Congregation of Phoenix, Arizona, Mr. Salvador Reza, leader of Puente Arizona, and ten others were sentenced on August 23, 2011 in Phoenix. They had previously been found guilty on charges of failure to obey the order of a peace officer, after physically blocking the driveway entrance to the Madison Street Jail in Phoenix. The purpose of their action was to stop the neighborhood raids the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department planned for that day, despite federal district court judge Susan Bolton’s preliminary injunction on parts of SB 1070.
Judge Pro Tem David Seyer sentenced all thirteen defendants with the same sentence. The defendants are not required to pay any fine, nor to perform community service. Judge Seyer stated that he had considered the circumstances of the offense and the character of the defendants. After noting the motivations of the defendants and their peaceful behavior, he said that they made a choice. Each of them had willfully failed to comply with the order of a peace officer, so they were responsible to pay the consequences of their actions. He concluded that the time already served and the year elapsed since July 29, 2010 is sufficient punishment.
Several defendants spoke. Mr. Reza stated that the defendants are not guilty of anything for fighting for civil rights, as the trial was political, no less than the trials of the 1960’s.
Rev. Morales released the following statement upon hearing of his sentence:
“While my trial has finally ended, my determination to oppose Arizona’s SB 1070 and the inhumane practices of Sheriff Joe Arpaio is stronger than ever.
As people of faith, we are called to oppose injustice and help protect the most vulnerable among us. We cannot turn a blind eye to the inhumane immigration enforcement practices of Sheriff Arpaio, nor should we accept similar policies in other parts of our country.
We Unitarian Universalists will continue to stand on the side of love against such legislation and the anti-immigrant sentiment it represents. We look forward to an opportunity to witness publicly against such injustices at our Justice General Assembly in Phoenix in 2012.”
The message below went out to Standing on the Side of Love supporters on Thursday, August 18, 2011. You can sign-up for these emails here.
I remember sitting in my guidance counselor’s office for my senior conference, nervously fidgeting as I waited for her to return from making copies of my high school transcripts. She returned with the copies, speaking quickly about this university and that deadline, telling me, “Oh, this scholarship would be perfect for you,” and finally, “Now for your financial aid form.” I froze, realizing the answers to financial aid questions would determine the direction and pace of my future. After much fumbling and talking in circles, I managed to articulate, “I am undocumented” aloud for the first time in my life. An awkward pause ensued, and I felt my entire face go hot as I anxiously waited for her reaction.
“Well, you’re illegal and there’s no options for you here,” she told me.
I let the words wash over me, and watched sadly as she closed the manila folder with my name on it and shoved it in the filing cabinet. I wanted nothing more than to leave her office, but it seemed to be forever until I could bring myself to move.
My story, sadly, is all-too-common in the United States. That’s why I am asking faith communities across the country to join me this fall in taking part in the DREAM Sabbath campaign. Together, we are advocating for the DREAM Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented young adults brought to the United States as children who complete two years of college or military service.
I came to the United States when I was 6 months old from Costa Rica. My family was escaping economic hardship. A year after my father had made his way here, my mother followed, bringing my brother, sister, and myself. I led a very rich childhood in Lakeland, Florida, living with two parents who loved me and never hesitated to say so, and with two older siblings who protected me. I attended elementary, middle, and high school here, working hard in school so that all my parents’ sacrifices would be repaid generously when I would have a career, and be the first to get a college degree. I graduated from Lois Cowles Harrison Center for the Visual and Performing Arts, and was accepted into every university in Florida. I was even accepted into Florida State’s voice performance program with the dream of becoming a music teacher in low-income communities of color. Unfortunately, not being eligible for financial aid and not being able to legally work or drive in the only country I knew, I had to put these dreams on halt.
In 2009, when I first learned about the DREAM Act, it was like a beacon of hope for me, leading my way out of the shadows of the oppression I was living in to become a leader and champion for my community. It wasn’t just about young people like me trying to pass legislation, but about a national movement to try to save future potential in this country: stopping the separation of families, getting young people out of detention, and stopping the lucrative industry of prison corporations that kept lobbying congress to pass harsh and punitive immigration laws with no other aim but to fill up detention centers for profit.
As Unitarian Universalists around the country unite to stand up for justice, I urge you to join in solidarity with the DREAM Sabbath campaign taking place this fall. Get involved and you can help:
–Raise awareness in your congregation about the injustices against immigrant students and their families
–Open a safe space for community members to express the abuses they are facing so that they may be documented.
–Pressure your legislators to no longer be manipulated by business interests that just want more jails and detention centers.
In 2009, the legislation passed the House of Representatives and had majority support in the Senate, falling just a few votes short of ending a filibuster.
Together, we can defend our community and stand up for the people that have worked so hard to build it. Together, we can ensure that the dreams of young people like me, all across this country, can become a reality.More >
On Tuesday, August 16th, in support of a national day of action organized by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), Unitarian Universalists joined local organizations to personally deliver a copy of NDLON’s groundbreaking report about the failure of the Secure Communities (S-COMM) program to Boston-based politicians. The report, entitled “RESTORING COMMUNITY: A National Community Advisory Report on ICE’s Failed “Secure Communities” Program,” has been endorsed by the UUA and includes a statement from UUA President Rev. Peter Morales. More than twenty people, including Rev. Terry Burke of First Church in Jamaica Plain Unitarian Universalist, and UUA staffers Audra Friend, Alex Kapitan, and Derek Mitchell joined immigrant rights groups at Boston City Hall to present copies of the report to Mayor Menino’s staff as well as the Boston city councilors.
Rev. Burke was invited to offer a prayer while the delegation met with the staff of Boston’s city councilors. “We pray for the families of our city, especially our immigrant families,” he said. “We pray that they may be safe from fear, that this program may be ended; that there may be justice in our city. Amen.”
After the reports were distributed to the Boston city councilors, the delegation made the short walk from Boston City Hall to the Massachusetts State House.
Members of Gov. Patrick’s staff met the delegation at the State House and accepted the report. Rev. Burke spoke with members of the Governor’s Community Affairs staff on behalf of the faith community (see video), calling on Governor Patrick as a person of faith to heed the call to remain out of S-COMM.
On Friday, August 5, Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that they were rescinding all their agreements with the states regarding their implementation of the S-COMM Program, and that they would require the states to implement it, even if they had opted out. S-COMM is an ICE/DHS program which automatically sends fingerprints taken by local law enforcement to ICE. Hundreds of people in Massachusetts have been reported to ICE under S-COMM and deported, and a majority of them were charged with minor crimes and infractions or weren’t charged with any crime at all. (See Saturday’s Boston Globe article.)
Governor Patrick has told ICE that he will not sign Massachusetts onto the program. However, the City of Boston is part of the program and has served as a pilot site since 2006. Mayor Menino is now considering pulling Boston out of the program and is being urged by immigrant rights groups to do so.More >