It has been clear for a long time that our nation’s immigration system is broken and unjust. I am proud of how Unitarian Universalists have put our faith and values into action by standing on the side of love with immigrant rights organizations and communities. Our Justice General Assembly in Phoenix in 2012 was a prominent example of our commitment to the inherent worth and dignity of every person.
But years of advocacy and activism have not resulted in immigration reform. In fact, since 2008, more than two million people have been deported from the U.S. That’s more than 1,000 people every day. And still Congress does nothing.
To address this ongoing tragedy, our partners at the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) are holding a National Day of Action on April 5th for groups across the country to tell President Obama that after two million deportations, it is past time for executive action to stop the deportations. We will urge the President to grant deferred action as he did for the “Dreamers,” the children brought to this country by their parents seeking a better way of life for their families. Congressional inaction makes this executive action absolutely necessary.
Four years ago, I initiated an interfaith letter calling on the President to suspend the Immigration Custom and Enforcement Secure Communities Program that has created a devastating mass detention and deportation system in this country. I asked Maria Hinojosa, producer of the Frontline film Lost in Detention, to speak as our Justice GA Ware Lecturer. I have consistently urged administrative relief for our migrant communities, while continuing to press Congress for compassionate immigration reform. While we wait for the Congress to create a framework for immigration reform, it only makes sense to provide relief from deportations for those who would be included in an immigration reform bill.
I hope that you will respond to NDLON’s call to action. Please visit NDLON’s #Not1More website to find an April 5th action near you or to add your own action to the map. And I urge you to sign the Petition to President Obama.
On April 4th, I will be speaking at the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office (UU-UNO) Spring Conference for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We know that we are one human family. Indigenous communities on the border often say, “We didn’t cross the border, it crossed us.” They too are suffering from our broken immigration system. I will ask people at the conference to observe the April 5th National Day of Action and to sign the petition. Two million deportations is a sad milestone. Two million is too many.
Love has no borders. Love keeps families together.
Love respects the inherent worth and dignity of all people.
The Reverend Peter Morales
President, Unitarian Universalist Association
Currently 51% of people migrating to the United States are women, and the overwhelming majority of them are mothers. The human face of this statistic has been broadcast nationwide in the courageous stories of young undocumented mothers who have been separated from their children and deported. Our immigrant sisters stand unafraid in calling for an immigration process that keeps all families together, safeguards the labor and civil rights of immigrant women workers, protects survivors of domestic violence and trafficking, and empowers millions of immigrant women with the language and other help they may need to contribute their skills fully.
On Sunday, March 30, we will be fasting for 24-hours to demand comprehensive immigration reform. We invite Unitarian Universalist women, including trans women, genderqueer women, and all those who stand in solidarity with immigrant families to join us. We pray our legislators will listen to the collective cry from women all across the country. We who are fasting are making the statement that addressing immigration reform is more important than eating. That sustaining our bodies means little if we are neglecting our collective soul. That the abuses taking place daily must stop. That we demand compassionate and just immigration reform and we demand it now!
Unitarian Universalists have been strong advocates and allies in la lucha (the fight) for immigration reform for many years. Our theology calls us into relationship with all those impacted by the immigration system. We are called into the messiness, into the heartbreak, and into the struggle for justice. We know there are multiple paths to Truth and many ways to journey towards the Beloved Community. We hope you will open your heart to this 24-hour fast and to this Truth: immigration reform is needed immediately, and it must be fair for women! We encourage you to join us for this act of solidarity – let us be enriched by our diversity and unity in la lucha.
Join us this Sunday, March 30 for a UU Women’s Day of Action on Immigration as we fast in solidarity with the immigrant women and families who are most harmed by our current immigration system!
Rev. Marti Keller, Unitarian Universalist Women’s Federation
Rev. Cathy Rion Starr, Minister of Social Justice, All Souls Church Unitarian, Washington, DC
Rev. Wendy von Zirpolo, Parish Minister of Unitarian Universalist Church of Marblehead, MAMore >
On Thursday, March 13, participants in the Finding Our Way Home retreat joined leaders of Boston Mobilization in collaboration with Youth of Massachusetts Organizing for a Reformed Economy (YMORE) and Sub/Urban Justice to witness for economic justice and call for an increase in the minimum wage.
Finding Our Way Home is an annual retreat for Unitarian Universalist religious professionals of color, hosted by the UUA through the Diversity of Ministry Initiative. This year’s event, held in Boston, was attended by nearly 80 ministers, seminarians, religious educators, directors of music, and church administrators from across North America. In addition to community building, spiritual reflection, and collegial support, the retreat includes a service project—and this year, participants partnered in solidarity with YMORE, a cross-race, cross-class, and cross-neighborhood community of youth, as they shared their stories and demanded policies grounded in equity and justice from their government.
In their invitation to Finding Our Way Home, YMORE explained:
“As religious professionals from all over the country, your presence reminds the Massachusetts legislature that the nation is watching to see how Massachusetts acts on issues of workers’ rights. As Unitarian Universalists leaders, you remind politicians that these issues are moral ones. YMORE is an interfaith group of teens with shared values. Your presence as religious people will call us back to the truth that the power of love is the ground of all justice work.”
At a joint press conference led by the youth, social justice leaders gave moving testimonials about how minimum wage, sick time, and state policies impact their lives. UUA President Rev. Peter Morales also spoke to the gathering, thanking the youth for their leadership and reiterating his and the UUA’s commitment to addressing escalating inequality and getting the minimum wage raised on the state and federal levels (you can review and sign the joint UUA/UUSC statement).
Ellie Flammia, a YMORE member and local high school student, shared:
A lot of people think that teens hold the majority of minimum wage jobs, but in reality 88% of minimum wage jobs are held by adults. In fact, every year Republican Senators in Massachusetts propose paying teens less than the minimum wage. … We don’t want to encourage businesses to hire teens over adults. We are fighting for EVERYONE to have higher minimum wage pay.
Following the press conference, Finding Our Way Home participants shadowed YMORE representatives to meet with seven state legislators and Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo. Others joined together in front of the State House with signs, gaining supportive cheers and honks from people driving by.
Rev. Dr. Hope Johnson, minister of the UU Congregation of Central Nassau, NY, said:
“After a terrific 101 Program on Minimum Wage led by Elizabeth Nguyen and Asha Carter, young adult staff of the Boston Mobilization, Rev. Danielle DiBona and I had the honor and privilege of being adult allies who joined the teen social justice leaders as we all walked into the Massachusetts State House to express how important we believe it is to raise the minimum wage. … I felt as if I had truly earned the title of ‘Elder’ because I did not need to do anything except to bear witness as the youth made their points about the critical issue of supporting workers of all ages by supporting the raising of the minimum wage.”
Aisha Hauser, Director of Religious Education at East Shore Unitarian Church in Bellevue, WA, reported:
“One of my passions as a UU religious educator is engaging youth and children in a way that empowers them as agents of change in our world. Being a part of this service project led by youth in favor of not only a raise in the minimum wage, but also against cutting benefits to those who need it most, was a privilege. While it may be cliché to say that the youth are our future, it is a fact and it is encouraging and humbling to see how many youth fully understand the stakes in our political struggles for the underprivileged in our country right now.”
Rev. Dr. Qiyamah Rahman, minister of the UU Fellowship of St. Croix, Virgin Islands, and a participant in Finding Our Way Home since the retreat’s beginning, passionately testified to the power of the service component of the gathering, saying that it was the single most powerful addition that had been made to the retreat over the years and really exemplified who UU religious professionals of color are and what they bring forward.
UUs are involved in minimum wage campaigns in many states, as well as at the federal level. Find out more, and please sign the joint UUA/UUSC statement calling for raising the minimum wage closer to a living wage, indexing the minimum wage to inflation, and significantly increasing the minimum wage for employees who receive tips.More >
“I love you, be safe.” These words are a reminder of how my Nana waved me off and how I bid my loved ones farewell for 22 years…. I left home each day anxious to do good in our world — to protect my assigned and adopted communities.
But my joy was tempered by the sad reality check that occurred three years ago when I attended an art show at the Brecht Forum in New York City. A skit was being performed and at the end of the skit a police officer was shot and killed. Most of the young adults in the room cheered and clapped. It was at this moment that I recognized how much I was hated and feared by the very community I vowed to protect and serve.
After 22 years of service as a law enforcement officer in New York City, I had been looking forward to retiring on New Year’s Eve. I reported to duty on Christmas Eve feeling light-hearted, knowing this would be my last Christmas Eve serving. I was praying for a quiet evening for myself and for my fellow officers.
However, I was quickly reminded of the sacrifices law enforcement officers make everyday, even on Christmas Eve. A bulletin from the FBI flashed across my computer screen informing me that an officer was shot and killed in Tupelo, Mississippi. Corporal Kevin Gale Stauffer of the Tupelo police department was fatally wounded while attempting to apprehend suspects in a bank robbery. Officer Joseph Maher, his partner, was critically wounded. The suspects were thus far unapprehended. I paused for a moment of silence to honor my fallen brother. Deeply saddened, my thoughts went to his family. I was not really sure if Santa was coming to his home or if the story of the birth of Jesus was going to be told, but I knew for sure that the holidays would forever be different for this family. In addition, I soon found out he had left a wife and two children ages 2 and 6, on Christmas Eve.
While this tragic story was unfolding, a parallel light was emerging in this dark hour. Imagine this! A civilian bystander, who had witnessed this senseless act of violence, approached the two shot officers who lay there on the pavement, and quickly took action. The bystander picked up the officer’s radio and called for help! Help quickly arrived. The mayor proclaimed that this one brave heroic act saved Officer Maher’s life.
There was a profound sense of gratitude that the community and I had for this unidentified bystander. There was also an emergence of love, kindness, and compassion for the officers’ families. I wondered how, as a faith community, we build and sustain this type of powerful oneness of community even in the face of fear, the sense of betrayal, and the possible prejudice of the very people who are here to protect and serve us.
I am hopeful that we can create change by communication and the demonstration of one’s humanity overcoming one’s hatred and fear.
Guided by my spirit and faith I am ready to open up this conversation. I invite my fellow Unitarian Universalists and all other faith communities to join me. I am not asking you to forgive or forget. I am asking you to be open to allow our faith to heal the wounds that exist. I am standing waiting to listen, to be honest, and to share my journey as a law enforcement officer. Let us build this bridge together with love, kindness, compassion, and honesty, so that we can be part of a forever-changing world by creating a united oneness.
SEE YOU ON THE BRIDGE!
Joey MorelliMore >
Blog Series: From North Carolina to Your Home State
Less than two months ago, on February 8, between 1,000 – 1,500 UUs from across the country joined partners in Raleigh, NC, to witness in solidarity at the Mass Moral March, spearheaded by the North Carolina NAACP. Together, we learned about the many interconnected justice issues at stake in their state and how this has led to a Fusion Coalition to bring North Carolina “Forward Together.” Throughout the coming year, the Unitarian Universalist Association and the Standing on the Side of Love Campaign will focus on voter suppression—an issue that impacts many people and is at the core of the struggle in North Carolina. In this election year, UUs across the country will be learning more about what we can do ensure all people have voting rights, especially after the Supreme Court gutted key parts of the Voting Rights Act.
This blog post is the third in a series that will build upon our collective energy after our gathering in Raleigh. Sandy Weir writes about her experience at the Mass Moral March, and shares why witness is such an important opportunity for our community. She also talks about the emphasis on “Taking it All Back Home” to our families, communities, and world as a way to create change.
“From this House” is a joyous, South African-style song by composer Ben Allaway. It evokes the image of people walking out into the world after finding power and a sense of purpose at their house of peace, their community space to celebrate, learn, and work out problems. Unitarian Universalists often chant the lyrics, “from this house, to the world, we will go, hand in hand,” as we emerge from a sanctuary to march for justice. The lessons I’ve learned at my UU “house” are the grounding for my commitment to justice.
The song continues, “Look around you; find your neighbor; share the peace. It’s all about freedom without fear.” In Arizona, I am in community with undocumented immigrants who have found power and purpose together at their own house of peace, and we work together for freedom without fear. As a participant in Building the World We Dream About, a UU Tapestry of Faith program that builds antiracist, multicultural skills, the reflections I shared of my ongoing transformation introduced more UUs to this community. Yet I was still hungry to share more widely and to meet new peers engaged in similar transformative experiences.
Then, North Carolina UU clergy invited UUs nationwide to join the Mass Moral March in Raleigh on February 8 led by state NAACP President Rev. Dr. William Barber and supported by a large coalition. The invitation described the movement to restore voting rights. And, it warned:
We know North Carolina is being viewed as a test state to unleash these regressive chains of injustice across the country.
Those words were familiar to Arizonans who had asked others to join us in resistance in 2010, warning: “SB 1070 is a hateful law and other states around the country are copying Arizona and introducing anti-immigrant laws.”More >