Unitarian Universalists Successfully Organize in Massachusetts to Oppose Widely Criticized Immigration Enforcement Program
Six months of steady organizing and public witness on the side of love has paid off!
Standing on the Side of Love and UUA Witness Ministries staff have played a significant role in mobilizing Unitarian Universalists in Massachusetts to stop an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) program that has been tearing apart immigrant families.
In what the Boston Globe is calling “a major turnaround on immigration enforcement,” Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick stated Monday that he will refuse to sign on to the controversial federal Secure Communities program (S-Comm), which refers undocumented immigrants arrested even for minor crimes to federal immigration officials for deportation.
The Massachusetts ACLU Chapter said:
“This is a huge victory for civil liberties and for advocacy. A range of groups representing civil rights, immigrant rights, victims’ rights, church groups and local police chiefs urged the Governor to do the right thing – and he has. “
On Dec. 23, 2010, a week after Governor Patrick stunned many by announcing that he would sign on to the ICE program, a rally and action was quickly organized by Centro Presente—a statewide immigrant rights advocacy organization. Rev. Fred Small, minister at First Parish Cambridge UU, was one of the speakers and UUs from around the greater Boston area participated.
In the coming months, Standing on the Side of Love joined Centro Presente, UU Mass Action (the UU state advocacy network), and the Boston New Sanctuary Movement, an interfaith coalition, in urging the Governor not to sign onto Secure Communities. Throughout the winter, Standing on the Side of Love organized to bring UUs in our signature yellow “Love” shirts to rallies and hearings at the Massachusetts State House in support of Centro Presente’s Just Communities Campaign. With UU Mass Action, we collected several hundred postcards from UU congregations to the Governor. We also used social media to generate hundreds of phone calls to Gov. Patrick’s office, urging him not to change his mind and not sign Massachusetts on to the S-Comm program.
On Feb. 14th, national Standing on the Side of Love Day, Rev. Fred Small, UUs from several congregations, and interfaith leaders joined Centro Presente at an action at the State House on Beacon Hill. The action led to a meeting with the Governor where he promised to explore the possibility of opting out of the policy and to hold public meetings around the state to get community input about it.
UU clergy and lay leaders attended and spoke out at every single one of the public meetings, wearing Standing on the Side of Love T-shirts and pins, carrying placards and calling for and end to a program that is harming immigrant families. Among them were:
• Rev. Lara Hoke, UU Congregation of Andover;
• Rev. Lee Blumel, North Parish UU Church;
• Rev. Ralph Galen, Community Church of Lawrence;
• Rev. Wendy von Zirpolo, UU Church of Marblehead;
• Rev. Fred Small, First Parish UU Cambridge;
• Rev. Terry Burke, First Church Jamaica Plain UU; and
• Rev. Jason Lydon, Community Church UU Boston.
UU leaders and clergy from ten congregations, including State Senator Susan Fargo, a member of First Parish in Lincoln, came to the Waltham public event on S-Comm in April, where the Tea Party had bussed in anti-immigrant protestors.
In addition to the public meetings, several UU clergy and lay leaders had phone conversations and meetings with their legislators.
Daryl Bridges, youth director at the UU Church of Medford and recent seminarian graduate, was recruited by the UUA as a short-term organizer to help mobilize Massachusetts residents against Secure Communities during the last several weeks. When a call went out two weeks ago for organizations to sign onto a letter to the Governor, twenty UU congregations were represented among the 100 entities, which also included the Unitarian Universalist Association, the UU Mass Action Network, and the UU Service Committee.
Last week, State Representative Carl Sciortino, a Unitarian Universalist, led an effort urging other legislators to sign a letter to the Governor urging him to reject S-Comm.
With Monday’s announcement, it is a moment to celebrate – Gov. Patrick has chosen not to further marginalize immigrant communities in Massachusetts. But the door is still open for cities to participate in S-Comm, unless state legislation or an executive order is passed prohibiting them from doing so. Plans are already underway to urge Mayor Menino of Boston, the only city that currently participates in the program, to withdraw. Stay tuned!
We need to continue our work to stop S-Comm in every state. Please sign the national petition for a moratorium on S-Comm: http://bit.ly/scommice