The message below went out on Thursday, July 5, 2012 to Standing on the Side of Love supporters. You can sign-up for these emails here.
I have been working with CREER Comunidad y Familia, an immigrant-led group that serves local immigrant families in San Juan Capistrano, for several years now alongside members of my congregation – Tapestry UU of Mission Viejo. We have been providing after-school tutoring and other activities including teaching each other English and Spanish. Additionally, CREER is a member of OCCCO (Orange County Congregation Community Organization), an interfaith community organization affiliated with the PICO Network that Tapestry also belongs to.
Two years ago, five members of Tapestry UU, who were already passionate about reforming our immigration system led a listening campaign at Tapestry to find a specific action our whole congregation could get behind and become more involved with. Thanks to guidance from our community organizer at OCCCO, we eventually chose to visit immigrant detainees in local jails which serve as detention centers here in Orange County.
We had heard about abuses in the centers and at first we planned to bear witness to some of the egregious things happening inside the walls. As we listened to the immigrant community about what they really needed from us, the project evolved though, into a visitation program to help the isolated people inside. Through research meetings with local enforcement officials, ex-detainees, and immigration attorneys we began making plans to visit the closest detention facility, James A. Musick in Irvine.
Last year at the UU General Assembly in Charlotte I met Grassroots Leadership, a national organization working to reduce immigrant detention and provide support to people being held in detention. In January, Grassroots Leadership came to southern California and trained over 20 people from four UU congregations in Orange County. They also travelled to First UU in San Diego for a training there. It was exciting to learn of San Diego’s similar project, and we have developed a great partnership since then. Grassroots taught us about a whole new world of opportunities for providing tangible support. The Detention Watch Network has become our partner to help us monitor what’s happening inside these centers. We also heard from Jose de Jesus Penaflor, an ex-detainee, who talked about his life before, during, and after detention. He was bonded out by a fund created at First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles. Our support made a huge difference to Jose and his family.
Visitation programs connect people in civil immigration detention with community members. We provide them with a link to the outside world, while also preventing human rights abuses by creating a community presence in otherwise invisible detention facilities. We are also there to help families of detainees.
Having witnessed what these programs can do, I want to ask you to join the upcoming webinar on July 25th led by Grassroots Leadership and Detention Watch Network to learn about what you can do. Please RSVP here:
Everyone at Tapestry, although we have varying opinions of how to fix our broken immigration system, can understand that there are human rights abuses going on in these facilities. We want to help the families of those isolated and provide support to those in detention.
Since our training in January, we have held meetings with jail and enforcement officials, attorneys who do legal orientation know your rights programs in Los Angeles, an organizer of an ICE-approved visitation program, and a local law school immigrant rights group. We were appalled to find out that there are no current legal orientation programs (LOP’s) at the Orange County jails where immigrant detainees are housed. Now that a monthly LOP program has been set up here, participating attorneys are our link to find detainees seeking visitors.
Sign up to learn more about how to start a detainee visitation program here:
We plan to start our official visits in the fall. Spanish interpreters include friends we made way back in the beginning when we began our relationship with CREER Comunidad y Familia. Plans include getting clergy more involved and strengthening this growing interfaith movement. Although this ministry is not directly an advocacy effort as we had first imagined, we are building power through our relationships with attorneys and also with jail and ICE officials.
This has become a very personal issue to me. Not only am I working for and with my good friends in San Juan Capistrano, but I feel part of a big movement, a civil rights movement of our time. From service we are building solidarity.
I hope you will join the July 25th webinar on “Breaking the Isolation of Immigration Detention: Starting a Visitation Program.” To learn more before the webinar, please visit www.endisolation.org.
Rooted in Faith and Standing on the Side of Love,
Jan Meslin, Member, Detention Dialogues Orange CountyMore >
In response to the Supreme Court ruling on Monday that upholds the provision in SB1070 that requires police to ask for proof of citizenship–a provision which will invariably lead to racial profiling–UUA partner the Puente Human Rights Movement immediately organized a rally and protest at the regional (Immigrations & Customs Enforcement (ICE) headquarters in downtown Phoenix. The UUA Board was still in town for our meeting after Justice GA and the board members who had later flights answered Puente’s call to help out.
At the Puente center we were quickly put to work sending emails and making phone calls in English and Spanish to notify the community about the protest. A half an hour before the protest Carlos Garcia gathered people around a white board and delegated tasks: NDLON attorney Chris Newman would speak at the rally about the ruling, Carlos would speak on what the community needs to do. Others were identified as emcees and stage manager to manage the program and introduce speakers from partner organizations. Volunteers were quickly lined up to bring water, bullhorns, and to sell Puente T-shirts. It was done in 10 minutes and then we were all out the door headed for ICE. The crew who set us up for our vigil at Tent City joined us in front of the headquarters and set up the sound system and tables and got cumbia music blasting. Here I am, pictured with UUA Trustee Natalia Averett, along with some chanting, and Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray:
Soon people began pouring in from all directions. Some were active Puente supporters and others were people who felt compelled to be there to speak out against racial profiling and to stand up for the rights of migrants. There were Somos America, Code Pink and Occupy activists, UUs in ‘Love’ shirts, people from the barrios and from around the Phoenix area. A dozen media outlets were there. People were chanting, ‘We will not comply–this is what democracy looks like. And ‘No SB1070, no racial profiling – stop the deportations!’
Carlos Garcia of Puente said:
“We will not stand for more racial profiling against our communities. If the Supreme Court decision goes into effect, it will create a State of Emergency in Arizona that President Obama can prevent immediately. Our communities are organized and fighting back and we call on the President to stop racial profiling in its tracks by cutting off Secure Communities in Arizona. If President Obama does not act immediately, he will be an accomplice in the human rights crisis that SB1070 creates.”
There are several suits against SB1070, including one by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network that challenge the court’s decision on the basis of civil rights violations.
Luis Avila, a board member of Somos America talked to the crowd about knowing their rights. Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray called on those with papers to stop carrying them as an act of solidarity. I spoke about how it violates our faith to comply with SB1070 and that we are called to resist the mass detention and deportation of migrants.
In every town and city across this country we need to join with partners and call upon city and town councils, police chiefs and sheriffs to refuse to hold people for ICE.
Puente is calling on President Obama to shut off Arizona’s access to the ICE Secure Communities program and refuse to deport SB1070’s victims. Please sign their petition: http://bit.ly/potus1070.
Everyone who has just returned home from Justice GA is returning to states that the Supreme Court has now ruled can require police officers to ask for papers. The Department of Homeland Security has said that all communities will be enrolled in the Secure Communities program by 2013. This program is not mandated. It is not a law that Congress or any of our communities voted on. It is a policy of a federal agency.
My hope is that Unitarian Universalists will connect with migrant rights and faith leaders in their communities and offer to help with their efforts to ask counties, town and city councils, police chiefs and sheriffs, to refuse to participate in the Secure Communities program and stop holding people in jails for ICE for removal to a detention facility. A few counties and communities have already done this but we need many more to build a mass movement to stop mass detention and deportation and to break ICE’s hold on our communities.
As the protest was ending, a bus full of people heading for detention rolled up to the ICE building. As we stood outside the fence shouting words of resistance and support, I truly felt that I was standing outside a concentration camp. It was chilling. It was the warmth and solidarity of our gathering that sustained me in that moment. What would sustain the dozens of people who vanished in to the ICE building?
Standing on the Side of Love is holding a webinar with Grassroots Leadership on July 25th about how to start a visitation program at the detention center nearest you. Please join me. We showed our commitment at Justice GA. Now it’s time to take it home.
Photos Courtesy of Suzi Spangenberg.More >
The First Unitarian Universalist Church of Richmond, VA held an event yesterday afternoon to witness to the mixed emotions present in the wake of the Supreme Court decision on SB 1070.
“We stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Arizona who continue to have their full humanity denied by this and other similar laws,” said Aija Simpson.More >
The message below went out on Monday, June 25, 2012 to Standing on the Side of Love supporters. You can sign-up for these emails here.
On Saturday night, thousands of us showed up at tent city in our Love shirts to speak out against the inhumane treatment of immigrants in our country, especially in Arizona.
All over the world, media has taken notice of our message of justice, human rights, and love. You can read about our presence in the Washington Post:
Today, as you might have heard, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling on the constitutionality of Arizona’s SB1070. The court struck down several provisions of the law as unconstitutional. However, for now, the “show me papers” provision of the law, which will invariably lead to racial profiling and egregious civil right violations, remains in place.
“We never had faith in the Depart of Justice Supreme Court case,” says Puente, Arizona. “We have faith in our people. WE WILL NOT COMPLY!” Please watch this video:
While many of us who came to Phoenix will return to our daily lives, many of remain in Arizona in the struggle, and thousands of us have renewed our resolve to serve as moral voices and advocates for those who suffer under our nation’s broken immigration system. At a press conference in Phoenix today, UUA President Rev. Peter Morales joins our partners Puente Arizona NDLON and others in speaking out against the injustice that SB1070 represents. “Unitarian Universalists hold among our principles the affirmation of the inherent worth and dignity of every person,” says Rev. Morales. “People of faith cannot rest easy as long as any part of SB1070 continues to strip the worth and dignity from migrants and their families.”
No matter what the courts decide on SB1070, it is the people of Arizona who will have the last word. And our voices will be heard in support of dignity and fundamental fairness.
“I didn’t know what it would look like, but last night seeing you with all the candles, in the heat, all together… that’s what love looks like,” said Carlos Garcia, Director of Puente Arizona, referring to Saturday’s tent city vigil. “The people from our community couldn’t believe, as people just kept coming and coming.”
As we all know, this fundamental struggle for human rights continues. As people of faith and conscience, we must continue our acts of solidarity, our local advocacy, and our steadfast service as voices for justice.
Standing on the Side of Love
Love, love and more love to Andrea Morrison, of Winston-Salem, NC!
Here at General Assembly, Andrea donated 84 handmade Standing on the Side of Love pennants to the campaign, which we will use in our public witness. An artist, she purchased the materials, cut them out, sewed them and painted the hearts herself.
The pennants are a huge hit. Thanks, Andrea!More >