Standing on the Side of Love to End “Secure Communities”
On Wednesday, August 24, Rev. Dr. Linda Olson Peebles and 10 members of the UU Church of Arlington, VA, joined some 300 people to testify against the U.S. Homeland Security initiative called “Secure Communities”.
A Task Force, charged with reporting back on this policy to ICE, held hearings around the nation in the past few weeks, and this one in Northern Virginia, just across the Potomac River from DC, was the last chance for people to voice concerns. The 300 immigrants, faith leaders, worker unions, lawyers and legal rights workers were joined by two members of the Arlington County Board, Walter Tejada (who attends the UU Church of Arlington) and Board Chair Chris Zimmerman. (The County Board voted last year to “opt out” of the SCOMM program, only to be told that they had to enforce this ICE initiative which has led to massive deportations of mostly innocent people).
The 300 gathered for a press conference before the hearing, and heard the stories of women taken from their children, people thrown into detention without being convicted of any misdemeanor or crime, and other stories of injustice. The group then marched to the location of the hearing, with police protection, carrying banners and shouting “Hey, Obama! Don’t Deport My Mama!”
Representatives of the Catholic, Unitarian Universalist, United Church of Christ, and Jewish faith groups spoke to the Task Force. Rev. Dr. Linda Olson Peebles spoke, following some hateful xenophobic comments from a few people supporting SCOMM, and later a woman said to the UU minister, “Thank you so much for being there today, and for being the person to speak next after that guy (who attacked Latinos). I was kind of shaken up, but as soon as I heard your name as the next speaker, I said, ‘Yes!’ What a relief that was!”
Others testifying to end SCOMM included defense lawyers, Amnesty and ACLU staff persons, the “9500 Liberty” filmmakers, community workers, and immigrants who courageously risked giving first-person stories of the way the implementation of SCOMM is affecting not the criminals in their communities, but mothers, children, and families. Halfway through the two-hour hearing, some 200 of the End-Secure-Communities group walked out and continued chanting in the courtyard facing a central Arlington commercial hub.