Stopping S-Comm (ICE Secure Communities Program) in Massachusetts
From Susan Leslie, UUA Congregational Advocacy & Witness Director & Member of Immigration Task Force of First Parish Cambridge UU
As a result of pressure from a coalition that includes Centro Presente, Standing on the Side of Love, Boston New Sanctuary Movement, and other immigrant rights and faith groups, Massachusetts Governor Patrick is holding a series of public meetings around the state to get citizen input about the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Secure Communities (ICE) Program.
According to ICE the program is designed to keep communities safe from criminals. However, even according to ICE’s statistics, 54% of the people being detained and deported through this program have no criminal record or only simple misdemeanors. S-Comm sends the fingerprints of anyone who is arrested to ICE. If there is a match that person can be detained and deported. A match will occur if a person has put in an application for citizenship but has not yet received it or if their visa is pending renewal. The immigrant community and their supporters have been showing up to expose that this program is leading to more detentions and deportations of people who have come to the US to support their families. It is not stopping crime but it is creating fear and distrust in immigrant communities, fueling anti-immigrant bigotry in society, and leading to racial profiling and the criminalization of whole communities. We need programs that support immigrant families, not new ones that are tearing them apart and feeding anti-immigrant sentiment.
Last week in Waltham, the Tea Party brought a bus of anti-immigrant activists to the public meeting who shouted “get rid of illegals” and “speak English” at the crowd of immigrants and others who came to oppose S-Comm. Members of nine Unitarian Universalist congregations were among those who came to stop the program, including Rev. Fred Small, minister of First Parish Cambridge, Rev. Wendy von Zirpolo, minister of the UU Church of Marblehead (pictured here) and Nancy Banks, Director of UU Mass Action. Many of us there wore our Standing on the Side of Love T-Shirts and held up Love placards as well.
Rev. Fred Small spoke at the hearing saying:
My name is Fred Small. I am Senior Minister of First Parish in Cambridge, Unitarian Universalist. I am here to stand on the side of love with immigrant families, students, and workers.
The only secure community is the Beloved Community: the Beloved Community of Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream.
The Secure Communities program is driven by fear—fear of difference, fear of the other, fear of foreigners, fear of scarcity, fear of competition. Rather than uniting us, the Secure Communities program divides us. It reduces security by putting people in fear of the police.
If the Bible is your authority, hear the Book of Leviticus: “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself . . . .”
I have been to Arizona, where politicians advance their careers by stirring up fear and hatred of immigrants. I don’t want to live in that kind of atmosphere. I don’t want my daughter to grow up in that kind of atmosphere.
I beg Governor Patrick: please don’t lead Massachusetts down the road to Arizona. Reject Secure Communities.
Two more public meetings will be held in Massachusetts before the Governor decides whether or not to sign on to S-Comm. We are hopeful that Massachusetts will be one of the states leading the movement to opt out of this program. The next public meeting is at the Chelsea MA Public High School on April 28th. The final meeting will be in Brockton on May 14th at Massasoit Community College from 12-1:30 pm. The Tea Party is claiming that they will bring hundreds of their supporters to Chelsea. Standing on the Side of Love and others are mobilizing for a rally at the high school that will begin at 4:30 before the meeting.
To learn about what can be done in communities across the country, join us on May 5th for our webinar on congregational immigrant justice ministries. Register now!