Restoring Trust in Massachusetts
On Wednesday, January 23rd, UU Mass Action participated in the Thirty Days of Love by helping our local immigrant rights partners organize a lobby day in support of the Massachusetts Trust Act. The Trust Act will end Immigration Custom and Enforcement’s co-opting of local law enforcement, which breaks down relationships in all of our communities.
In May 2012, Immigration Custom and Enforcement (ICE) implemented the Secure Communities (S-Comm) program statewide in Massachusetts despite the objections of immigrant rights groups, faith groups, many local law enforcement official,s and even Governor Patrick. ICE tells us that S-Comm makes our communities safer by deporting criminals who are undocumented. However, ICE’s own statistics show that this in not the case. Since its implementation, nearly 200 individuals have been deported through the S-Comm program–60% of those people have committed no crime at all (aside from their immigration violation) and another 10% have only committed minor infractions such as traffic violations or minor misdemeanors. Only 3 in 10 of those deported have committed the types of crimes that ICE touts as the reason for S-Comm. The national statistics, while not as bad, are still pretty grim: 83,000 people were deported using the S-Comm program in 2012 and 50% of had committed no crime or a minor traffic violation or misdemeanor.
The truth is that S-Comm does the exact opposite of its intended purpose. S-Comm makes our communities less safe. Nationwide thousands of families have been torn apart–taking parents away from U.S. citizen children, removing bread winners from homes, and throwing many into the hands of already strained local social service providers. S-Comm has also driven a wedge between immigrant communities and local law enforcement, making those communities much less likely to report crimes such as domestic violence, theft, and assault. S-Comm tears at the bonds of love and trust that hold our communities together, calling for a response from the faith community.
That is why UU Mass Action is working to engage Massachusetts Unitarian Universalists in the national Restoring Trust campaign and have played a leading role in getting the Massachusetts Trust Act filed. The Trust Act breaks the bond between ICE and local law enforcement, allowing a trusting relationship to form between police and immigrant communities and making it much harder for ICE to break up law abiding immigrant families.
We met directly with state legislators to ask them to sign on as co-sponsors of the bill. Together, we also mapped out a strategy for the next six months of the campaign. Over the coming weeks, UU Mass Action will continue to build the interfaith coalition in support of the Trust Act by asking congregations and religious leaders to sign on to the letter of support and leading a series of workshops across the state.
There are other active statewide Trust Act campaigns in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Oregon, and California, and many more local campaigns. Visit the Interfaith Immigration Coalition website today to see if there is a Trust Act campaign near you and learn more about how you could help start a campaign in your community.