Kansas UU’s Organize Effectively to Help Defeat Three Anti-Immigrant Measures
Since January, local groups in Kansas have been working together to defeat three egregious anti-immigrant bills: a repeal of current state law that grants in-state tuition to undocumented students who grew up in the state; a Voter ID bill; and legislation modeled after Arizona’s Draconian SB 1070.
On March 13, a large interfaith coalition attended the hearings to oppose the legislation. Local ministers, including Rev. Lisa Romantum Schwartz of Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Topeka and Rev. Jill Jarvis of the Unitarian Fellowship of Lawrence, were joined by members from their congregations as well as members of All Souls, Kansas City, all dressed in their yellow Standing on the Side of Love t-shirts.
“There was lots of opposition to the bill, and some religious group there passed out stickers featuring Leviticus 19:34 (on loving the stranger/alien), and most of us UUs wore those, too,” said Rev. Schwartz. “I never thought I’d be in a group of socially conscious UUs, all sporting a quote from Leviticus! But it actually felt really good to be able to stand on the side of love with people who are religiously different from us.”
Rev. Schwartz explained one key reason why her congregation was so concerned about defeating this legislation: “The main thing that got my ire up was a clause that said anyone providing shelter or support to undocumented workers would be violating the law. The Topeka Fellowship does work with undocumented people by supporting with money and volunteers with VIDA ministries, a Presbyterian-sponsored organization that provides ESL classes with child care, a community garden, computer classes and more to latino/a people, regardless of their ‘legal’ status.”
Written testimony was submitted by the Unitarian Fellowship of Lawrence, KS and their minister, Rev. Jill Jarvis, offered testimony at the hearing. In addition to Rev. Jarvis, UU Angela Ferguson of All Souls Kansas City, an immigration attorney, also gave testimony.
The bills were defeated in the House. Angela Ferguson explained, “We were successful because of the broad base of our coalition. The business community had a coalition of 35 associations, ranging from Chambers of Commerce to the Farm Bureau and the Kansas Livestock Association. We had ACLU, churches, students, schools, and immigrant rights organizations.”
In the midst of the flurry of hearings in March, an Interfaith Prayer Vigil was held at Plymouth Congregational Church in Lawrence, KS on March 22nd to pray for tolerance, respect, and peace regarding immigration in Kansas. Members from St. John’s Catholic Church, Central United Methodist, the Jewish Community, the Islamic Community, Peace Mennonite Church, Trinity Lutheran Church, Plymouth Congregational Church, and Unitarian Fellowship of Lawrence all gathered and held candles and prayed. (For more pictures, see the Facebook page.)
Kansas and Missouri congregations plan to continue standing on the side of love with immigrant families. Unitarian Fellowship of Lawrence, with their interfaith allies in Lawrence Action Network for Diversity (L.A.N.D.) and members of All Souls, Kansas City, will participate in a peaceful witness at University of Kansas on April 12 when Secretary of State Kris Kobach is scheduled to speak. The UU Fellowship of Topeka is reading Death of Josseline and planning a study group of the book, and the congregation continues to support VIDA ministries in Topeka and their ‘sister community’ in Talpetates, El Salvador. All Souls, Kansas City is planning an Immigration service on May 15th, focusing on No More Deaths, and continues to be active in their interfaith coalition, Advocates for Immigrant Rights and Reconciliation.
Kansas UU’s are a model for how to stand on the side of love with effective results!