The Senate Judiciary Committee will be considering amendments again today to the bipartisan immigration reform bill. They began the amendment process last week, and will continue through the week of May 20. The amendment process is vitally important to comprehensive immigration reform. While some of these amendments provide important anti-discrimination and labor protections for immigration workers, others would effectively eliminate the ability of any guest workers to immigrate legally to the United States.
We must raise our voices and tell the members of the Judiciary Committee that our country needs compassionate immigration reform. Senators in the Judiciary Committee need to hear from people of faith across the country about the impact these amendments will have on our communities.
Please call 1-866-940-2439 to speak with the office of a Judiciary Committee member this morning and say:
“As a person of faith, I urge the Senator to SUPPORT all immigration amendments being offered by Senator Blumenthal, and Schumer #5, which would protect immigrant workers.
I also urge you to OPPOSE amendments that would hurt immigrant workers, specifically Sessions #3, Lee #19, Hatch #19 and #20, and Grassley #73 and #74.”
If you get an answering machine, please leave a message. Staff will be reporting all day on the number of calls for and against each amendment to the Senators. Find more information on the specific amendments below.
We believe that love has no borders, love keeps families together, and love respects the inherent worth and dignity of every person. Together, we can ensure that this immigration reform bill reflects our values.
Please call 1-866-940-2439 today!
Standing on the Side of Love
Senator Blumenthal’s Amendments #7, #13, #17, and #18
These amendments would ban hiring discrimination based on national origin or citizenship status, provide whistleblower protections for temporary workers, ensure workers have the right to a pay stub so that they can prove employment status for the pathway to citizenship, and codify current ICE policy restricting immigration enforcement actions where labor violations have been cited, so a threat of raids won’t keep workers from reporting abuse.
Senator Schumer’s Amendment #5
This amendment would help workers change employers without the risk of losing their visa, and would provide an electronic monitoring system for the program.
Senator Sessions’ Amendment #3
This amendment would prevent any guest workers from entering the U.S. if the unemployment rate is 5 percent or more. This is such a low threshold that it could effectively keep all guest workers from immigrating to the U.S.
Senator Lee’s Amendment #19 and Senator Hatch’s Amendments #19 and #20
These amendments would exempt employers of temporary workers from complying with labor and employment laws, thus allowing them to violate the rights of temporary workers; and would limit the ability of individuals and groups from submitting a complaint about worker’s mistreatment on behalf of a mistreated temporary worker.
Senator Grassley’s Amendments #73 & #74
These amendments would restrict temporary workers (new “W” visa recipients) from renewing their visas, and would require all temporary workers to provide proof that they can and are paying for their own health insurance, which could effectively prevent almost all temporary workers from entering the U.S.
*Please note that you likely will not be connected with your own Senator’s office through this number, unless they are a specific Judiciary Committee member. This is the best way to raise our voices at this moment. Judiciary members know they are responsible to ALL of us as they consider amendments. Feel free to call 1-866-940-2439 multiple times to connect with all priority Judiciary members. The Judiciary Committee list can be found here, if you want to call directly.
The message above went out on Tuesday, May 14, 2013 to Standing on the Side of Love supporters. You can sign-up for these emails here.More >
For the past two months, Unitarian Universalists from three congregations–the UU Fellowship of Marion County, First Unitarian Church of Orlando, and the UU Congregation of Lake County–have been actively standing on the side of love by supporting the establishment of a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) Club to help counter bullying in Carver Middle School. So far, they have attended five different events to support the measure.
In response to the club proposal by eighth-grader Bayli Silberstein, members of the Lake County School Board first proposed banning clubs, potentially including even sports and service clubs, which are not directly related to academic courses. After this failed, the board tentatively proposed allowing clubs, but requiring parental permission for students to participate. Then, reportedly at the request of one or more Lake County School Board members, the Florida legislature passed and Governor Scott signed a change in the definition of “secondary school” that may allow the Board to discriminate among clubs without violating the Federal Equal Access Act.
After a law suit was filed by the ACLU, the school board has now allowed the club to go ahead at Carver Middle School, but only until the end of this school year. In the meantime, the Board has opened an evaluation of a half dozen policy options regarding school clubs.
Rev. Janet Onnie of the UU Fellowship of Marion County issued the following statement, which was read into the record at a Lake County School Board workshop in Minneola, Florida:
In times of disagreement Unitarian Universalists stand of the side of love. One of our seven principles affirms the inherent worth and dignity of each individual. We express that by witnessing and working for justice for disenfranchised groups of people. Sexual orientation or gender identity is not a choice. It’s like the color of your eyes; only one aspect of the complete person in a relationship with a loving God.
We understand that there is great fear surrounding those who are different from us – whether it be skin color or socioeconomic class or political persuasion or sexual orientation. Nonetheless, it is our responsibility as a society to create conditions where people feel safe so that their individual gifts might flourish. This is especially true in our schools. It is the job of the schools to provide an atmosphere conducive to learning. If an individual or a group feels threatened or bullied because of something over which they have no control, the learning environment is compromised. When we allow our fear to override our commitment to raise our young to be productive and kind individuals, we have failed in our duty to them.
It seems to me that answering the question, “What would any of our peacemakers do?” is a good test of any policy. I believe Jesus or Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr. would support the formation of an alliance among different people attempting to understand each other. I believe these peacemakers would stand on the side of love.
This post was written by Nelson Hay. Nelson is a member of the Welcoming Congregation Committee and Communication Committee at the UU Fellowship of Marion County, Florida.More >
This post was written by Helene Newberg. Helene is an avid runner and a member of First Parish Unitarian Universalist in Arlington, Massachusetts.
In 2012, I was out of town on Patriot’s Day. Watching social media for Boston Marathon news, I started seeing reports that a student was found drowned in a local pond, less than a mile from our house. My heart sank; I did not want to believe that a child maybe from my community could die on what was reported to be a gorgeous day – marathoners were suffering in surprise early heat, but for others the warmth would be welcome.
Over the next several hours, the story emerged. Foul play was not suspected and, yes, the child was the sixteen year old daughter of friends we had known since our daughter’s first day of kindergarten. Shaira suffered from depression and died by suicide. I knew Shaira as loud and brilliant and creative and gorgeous.
Our hearts broke for our friends, Shaira’s family, who had done everything possible to support their daughter, whom I knew they loved and cherished with their every breath.
Years ago, a friend who knew me as a runner asked if I would support a new fundraising race for Samaritans. I thought I was in for a depressing experience, raising money for suicide prevention. It was anything but. One of Samaritan’s goals is to remove the stigma from loss by suicide. The 5K day is a chance to “run for someone else’s life,” supporting helplines and ongoing survivor services.
Last year, with the help of a teen Samaritans volunteer from Shaira’s youth group community, we built a 5K team with members from her home, school, and faith communities. Her dad said running is #7 on the list of things that made Shaira happy, so we called ourselves “Team #7 Running.”
I had run marathons before, but never Boston. Not fast enough to qualify, I had never been motivated enough to take on the fundraising commitment, although like many I really wanted to run the storied course.
Consoling anyone in the wake of such a loss seemed futile. However, I knew the family was active and I offered to be company on short runs. It was on one of these runs that I asked about applying for a John Hancock Charity Program Boston Marathon number for Samaritans to honor Shaira’s memory. My thought was that I could use tools I had available – including my near-obsessive passion for distance running – to be supportive in this time of loss.
The idea was a win all around. Samaritans would get needed support. I would spread the word about this resource for those in need and for kids who might volunteer. The community would have a place in which to continue supporting Shaira’s family. I would get to run Boston. All I had to do was raise more than $5,000 and train for a marathon.
My fundraising efforts were humbling. I almost didn’t have to ask and donations poured in.
Six weeks before the marathon, my knee fell apart. I restricted my training and was almost certain I should not start the race. My community support never wavered.
For the one year anniversary of Shaira’s death, her family held a prayer service at their mosque. There I reunited with some of the 5K team and made new friends who lent me a headscarf (but did not insist I cover up), showed me where to stow my shoes and where to sit in meditative prayer for the hour before brief remarks by Shaira’s family and Imam. I opened an English translation of the Qu’ran to page one and gained a deeper appreciation for the strength Shaira’s family finds in their faith and their faith community.
A week later, I got on the bus for Hopkinton, nervous about my injury. I wound up with the best running day of my life. Crowds cheering Boston Marathoners are the best spectators on earth. I flew past my cheering section. I was going to finish this thing. After six weeks of not running, Shaira was with me. I felt amazing.
Until 2:50pm. I heard strange fireworks sounds up ahead, then sirens and helicopters, and finally I pulled off the course at mile 25.2 where my personal story becomes far less important than other things that happened that week.
As what many feared became true – the perpetrators had some vague connection to Islamic extremist ideology – a detail of my story that I had not given second thought began to attract attention. As Muslims across the country braced for anti-Muslim backlash, I had run this now hyper-symbolic marathon in memory of a beautiful, beloved Muslim girl who struggled with mental illness. I am blessed to live in a community where support for all, regardless of faith, is the norm.
Shaira, you and I have unfinished business. We’re not done yet. You propelled me through 25.2 miles. I pledge to cover the entire distance next year. You bet I’m all in. Who’s with me?
In times like these, when our different faiths are more likely to tear us apart than to bring us together, it is vitally important that we stand with one another on the side of love, working with interfaith partnerships to strengthen and support our neighbors and our communities. Thank you for your support of Standing on the Side of Love as we work toward this goal.More >
Growing up, I didn’t always understand what love was. For me, it was both constant and obscure but it almost always came in the form of a harsh, demanding directive. My parents were relatively strict and in that way I knew they cared a great deal for my well-being but sometimes, it did come at the expense of my confidence.
My dad would tell my sister and I, “You have two strikes against you, you’re a woman and you’re Black” (and later a third strike when I came out). As I have evolved, I’ve challenged the metaphors he used to describe the challenges I would face in my life – but the point came across; life won’t be easy for you because of what you look like – and later, because of who you love.
Being a queer Black woman was always framed as a problem, not a lifestyle. I always had the tenacity to fight the unconstructive ways in which my life was discussed but behind closed doors. I felt wrought with frustration and sadness that the burden rest on my shoulders to convince others my life was valuable. This didn’t feel like love to me.
Love, in all of its nuanced complexity, is many things to many people. It is adorning and ostentatious, a glittery show of lights for the entire world to see, it is mindful and quaint, compliant and subtly exposed to an intimate audience of two; it is mellow but rich and full of niceties and sometimes love is grippingly unemotional, but consistently so. Compound emotional details aside, love is also a warm meal. It is enough money in your pocket to buy a dignifying cup of coffee, it is a warm, embracing coat on a cold winter’s day, the long, slow breath you take when you flip the switch and the lights come on, the ability make a decent wage, feed your family and live life away from the margins and closer to the center.
But for me love is embracing the notion that I have to fight for my right to live a full and satisfying life, free of scrutiny and judgment and that that fight won’t always be won. Standing on the side of love means reconciling that my existence is radically offensive to some and refreshingly welcomed by others and that’s okay.
Moving through the world as a queer, woman of color has proven to be both difficult and extremely rewarding but I am standing on the side of life because my life is valuable and sharing my story reminds others that their life is valuable too.
This post was written by Shanelle Matthews. Shanelle is the Communications Manager at Forward Together, an organization that leads grassroots actions and trains community leaders to transform policy and culture in ways that support individuals, families, and communities in reaching our full potential. Shanelle is working with UUA staff on the upcoming Mama’s Day celebrations. You can read her other Standing on the Side of Love blog posts here.More >
When I encouraged members of Wildflower Church to cross the border for their annual church service education trip, I never dreamed that we would end up detained, deported, and banned from Mexico. I am the interim minister at Wildflower Church in Austin, Texas. I have always found these person-to-person delegations energizing for justice work and profoundly moving spiritually.
It was supposed to be an easy trip, just across the border to Piedras Negras and Acuña, to talk with workers, mostly the women workers, about their experiences in the factories (the maquiladoras) that are run by multi-national corporations on the Mexican border. We felt it would inform our immigration work at home.
We first heard from the women. There is an assumption that maquiladoras women are docile, but these women had proved them wrong. Conditions such as working more than a decade for fifty cents an hour, ten hours a day in a facility with no windows and undependable sanitation organized them to change. After a ten hour day, you earned only enough for a gallon of milk.
I was particularly moved by fifty-year-old, Juan, who told us how he had grown up working on the family farm in the outdoors he loved, only to have to emigrate to the maquiladoras from Southern Mexico when farm prices were driven down after NAFTA. Now he worked just as hard, for less, without the healthy air and open skies he had loved as a young man. This he will do for the rest of his days, far from home. The aspect of NAFTA requiring fair labor practices is not only being ignored, but conditions for unions are getting worse.
After several morning visits, we went to the small meeting room of The Border Committee of Workers (CFO) to have a lunch prepared for us by our hosts. Shortly after we arrived, the building was surrounded by police with large automatic weapons and four immigration officers entered the building saying they had an “anonymous tip” about a large gathering which included foreigners. Eight of the eleven of us (the other three were Latino) were asked for our papers and told we didn’t have the correct papers and we would have to be taken down to the office to remedy the situation. Our Salvadoran-American companion told us later that this was the first time brown skin had ever been an advantage for him with police! We spent eight hours in custody during which we were asked to sign documents we couldn’t read. At first we were denied access to the consulate and later to a lawyer. At one point we were threatened with a two week stay in detention in Saltillo. We finally agreed to sign a short document saying we didn’t have a tourist card (not normally required near the border), we got finger printed, and we were deposited in El Rio, Texas with nothing but the purses we had with us. We were never given a credible reason for our deportation but headlines in the Mexican papers suggested we were political organizers. Through all our detention and the night that followed, the Mexican workers including some of their friends from the miners’ union, stood outside the building in which we were being held and then made sure we were safely across the border. Three of the eight detained were UUs from Austin.
It was clear that it was not us, but our hosts, who were the true target of this action. Multi-national corporations are crushing independent unions in Northern Mexico and this was another attempt to cut them off from friends and to intimidate both workers and allies. Most of us left Mexico truly inspired by the courage and friendship of these Mexican workers and I hope to return if and when the ban on my return is lifted. From Julia, Angelica, Javier, and many others I learned the meaning of the word corazón which means both heart and courage in Spanish. They taught us that to truly Stand on the Side of Love you need corazón and you need it for a long time. We had come to stand with them. Instead they stood with us.
If you would like to show solidarity with the workers, sign the petition online for the reinstatement of people we met who were fired for organizing.More >