Posts Tagged ‘Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson’

Welcoming Deportees with Open Arms: Support the Release of the Dream 9

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Dream 9 pose at the border.

Eight members of the Dream 9 at the U.S.-Mexico border before the action.

On Monday July 22nd, nine young immigrants (aka the “Dream 9″) arrived at the Nogales, Arizona port of entry with paperwork for humanitarian parole and asylum, requesting to come home to the United States. It was a historic and courageous action to bring awareness to those left out of the immigration reform debate–the millions of immigrant families that have been separated by detention, deportation, and border militarization.

Since then, the Dream 9 have been held in the infamous Eloy Detention Center, a private facility run by the Corrections Corporation of America. In just the past two weeks, they have received widespread national attention. Nearly 30,000 calls and letters of support have arrived from around the country and their nationwide organization, the National Immigrant Youth Alliance, has led multiple protests and sit-ins calling for their release . As a result of their effective advocacy, 43 members of Congress and counting have signed a letter to President Obama urging him to take immediate action for their release.

Just yesterday, we received the good news that all nine have passed the first interviews for their asylum cases. But they still have not been released. Please join us today in asking President Obama and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for their immediate release.

You can get involved by calling ICE and the White House, using the script below, or signing the online petition.

“Hi, my name is ____  and I’m from ____ . I am calling to ask that the Dream 9 be released from Eloy Immigration Detention Center in Arizona. None of the nine are a flight risk, and they were all detained trying to come home. Supporters from all over the world are asking for their release, please bring them home.”

ICE (Arizona): 602-766-7028
ICE (DC): 202-732-3000
White House: 202-282-8000

Bringing the Dream 9 home is just the beginning of the struggle they launched from the border. While in detention, the Dream 9 went on a hunger strike to protest restricted access to phone service that limited them from revealing the stories and abuses they heard from the inside. Members of the Dream 9 were also kept in solitary confinement to prevent them from building solidarity with the other detainees. Last week, more than 70 women in the detention center joined the hunger strike–some of whom have been in detention for years. This action further exposes our country’s unjust and deadly immigration and border enforcement policies, such as harsh border security, Operation Streamline, and record detention and deportations. All of this would be made worse by the border militarization provisions in the Senate’s immigration reform bill.

Surrounded by cameras, the Dream 9 arrive at the Nogales port of entry.

The Dream 9 arrive at the Nogales port of entry.

No More Deaths, a ministry of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson, is proud to be actively supporting the Dream 9. The mission of No More Deaths is to stop the death and suffering of migrants in the southern Arizona desert and we recognize that many of these deaths in recent years are a result of the 1.7 million people deported under the Obama administration. Immigrants with strong ties to the United States are faced with increasingly dangerous border crossings to return to their homes and families. No More Deaths volunteer and Unitarian Universalist Dr. Kat Sinclair worked with the legal team for the Dream 9 action. “As part of respecting the inherent worth and dignity of all people, we should be welcoming our deportee community home with open arms,” Sinclair said.

The core of the struggle for immigrant rights must be led by those directly affected by the injustice. We are honored to support families and community members who are building a movement that is impossible for policy makers and law enforcement to ignore. It provides yet another opportunity for allies to listen to the voices of immigrants and act in solidarity. Even if the Dream 9 are released, thousands still remain in detention or legal limbo–making our commitment to the long-term movement that much more important.

Please help us spread the word! Forward this email to your network, post to Facebook or Twitter, issue a public statement of support from your school, congregation or organization, and keep spreading the word. #BringThemHome

This post was written by Maryada Vallet and Walt Emrys Staton, M.Div. Emrys is a Unitarian Universalist ministerial candidate and Maryada is a public health professional. Both are long-time No More Deaths volunteers and based in Tucson, Arizona.

National Days of Action to End “Operation Streamline”

No Comments | Share On Facebook| National Days of Action to End “Operation Streamline” Share/Save/Bookmark Feb 19, 2013

No More Deaths, the humanitarian aid ministry of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson which goes out into the desert to save the lives of immigrants crossing the vast Arizona/Mexico border, is urging their supporters to act now to end” Operation Streamline” and other punitive border enforcement practices. No More Deaths is working with a coalition of local and national partners this week to urge members of Congress to end Operation Streamline and focus on real immigration reform.

Operation Streamline involves a series of Kafka-esque federal court proceedings held daily throughout the southern border states and criminalizes 70 immigrants per day in Tucson alone. A second border crossing results in a felony charge that can lead to up to twenty years in a federal prison. Often, these individuals are simply trying to provide for their families. You can watch a first person account of what the Operation Streamline system is like here.

As the Obama administration sets new records on deportations, an increasing number of individuals who are trying to rejoin family members settled in the United States have become wrapped up in Operation Streamline and other punitive border enforcement measures.

Streamline is also a key component of the administration’s policy of mass incarceration for tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants from all over the country, and part of a series of lucrative contracts with the private, for-profit prison industry. These corporations prey on undocumented immigrants by initiating anti-immigrant legislation in Arizona, Alabama, and many other states–guaranteeing that all their cells remain filled, while costing taxpayers billions of dollars for the unnecessary, long-term incarceration of nonviolent immigrants whose only “crime” is trying to feed their families.

You can help end Operation Streamline by taking action today! Use this form to write your members of Congress or these talking points to give their offices a call.

This post was written by Leila Pine, a No More Deaths volunteer and member of the UU Church of Tucson.

No More Deaths Wins Wilton Peace Prize

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No More Deaths/No Mas Muertes, an all-volunteer-led organization that embodies the very spirit of being the change one wishes to see in the world, has been chosen as this year’s recipient of the Wilton Peace Prize. The Wilton Peace Prize is given annually by the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) to individuals or groups in recognition of their contribution to “peace and human progress.” The award was established by Henry and Irene Wilton in 1984 and previous recipients include the Vietnam Veterans of America, Rep. Cynthia McKinney, and the World Council on Religion and Peace.

No More Deaths is a human rights and humanitarian aid organization that was first organized in 2004 with a simple mission to reduce deaths and suffering among migrants crossing the border through the Sonoran Desert. Since then it has expanded its work to meet the changing needs of undocumented immigrants and their families and to increase national awareness and draw attention to the enormous humanitarian crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, where more than 6,000 innocent men, women and children have already died. No More Deaths is the social justice ministry of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson and runs a number of programs including the Desert Aid Working Group, the Summer Desert Camps program as well as an Alternate Spring Break Camp in Arivaca, and the Abuse Documentation Working Group, which has been documenting human rights abuses by U.S. Border Patrol agents against migrants in their custody for the past six years.

According to a nomination letter written by Rev. Diane Dowgiert of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson:

No More Deaths has contributed significantly to peace and human progress over the past eight years. Not only has this volunteer-driven humanitarian aid organization saved thousands of lives in the Sonoran Desert, giving water, food and medical care to displaced migrant workers forced to cross the most treacherous parts of the U.S.-Mexico border in search of jobs to provide for their families. No More Deaths has also spent the past six years documenting human rights abuses by the U.S. Border Patrol against thousands of migrants in their custody, both in the desert and in short-term immigrant detention centers.

culture_crueltyNo More Deaths has led the way in abuse documentation with its first report, “Crossing the Line,” in 2008, and has produced an outstanding second report, “A Culture of Cruelty,” providing high quality documentation of almost 30,000 instances of abuse from interviews with almost 13,000 migrants over a three-year period. They have set a national standard for the documentation of human rights abuses against migrants for subsequent reports by Amnesty International USA, the ACLU and other national human rights organizations across the country, who have sought out No More Deaths when beginning their research at the border.

In addition, through its “Keep Tucson Together” project, No More Deaths has been more successful than any other organization to date in helping local undocumented immigrant families stay together, by fighting to close the cases of inappropriate deportation orders sent to immigrant parents without any criminal record, whose children and spouses living with them in the U.S. are dependent upon them financially and emotionally.

Since the release of “A Culture of Cruelty” on September 21, 2011, the report has also received coverage from CNN, USA Today, Reuters News Service, Democracy Now and many other news outlets. No More Deaths will receive a $1,500 donation from the UUA to support its efforts.

Thank you, No More Deaths, for your incredible work for human rights, and a better world for all people.

I would like to nominate No More Deaths/No Mas Muertes, the social justice ministry of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson, for the Wilton Peace Prize this year.  This amazing, volunteer-run human rights and humanitarian aid organization was first organized in 2004 with a simple mission to reduce deaths and suffering among migrants crossing the border through the Sonoran Desert.  Since then it has expanded its work to meet the changing needs of undocumented immigrants and their families and to increase national awareness and draw attention to the enormous humanitarian crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, where more than 6,000 innocent men, women and children have already died.
During the past eight years, No More Deaths has expanded its scope to include:
the Desert Aid Working Group, which provides water, food, clothing and a medical tent to treat injuries and dehydration-related illnesses of migrants crossing the border.  This year there have been several volunteers working with migrants in the desert throughout the winter months as well.
the Summer Desert Camps program as well as an Alternate Spring Break Camp in Arivaca, where hundreds of young adult volunteers come each year to be trained about border history, politics, legal issues and first aid so that they can reach out to save more lives in the desert through hands-on, experiential learning.
an Abuse Documentation Working Group, which has been documenting human rights abuses by U.S. Border Patrol agents against migrants in their custody for the past six years.  Its first report, “Crossing the Line”, was published in 2008, and made the human rights community aware of the horrific human rights abuses, and even torture, committed by Border Patrol agents.  Following that report, the ACLU of Arizona and other human rights organizations began to consult with No More Deaths and issue their own reports on human rights abuses at the border.
In September, 2011, No More Deaths issued a far more extensive report, “A Culture of Cruelty:  Abuse and Impunity in Short-Term U.S. Border Patrol Custody.”  This report was based on statistical compilations of interviews with more than 12,000 migrants over a three-year period in Nogales, Naco and Agua Prieta, Sonora, Mexico, finding and categorizing about 30,000 specific instances of human rights abuses.  This report, which strongly demonstrates that these human rights abuses by Border Patrol are systemic and must be dealt with systemically, includes numerous recommendations, including the need to demand access to immigrant detention facilities s by human rights organizations to investigate conditions and treatment of migrants held there, and the need for an independent oversight agency comprised of citizens and human rights organizations to investigate abuses, with the power to enforce human rights standards and discipline agents who violate those standards.
The “Culture of Cruelty” report (online at, with the help of the UUA’s Standing on the Side of Love and the UU United Nations Organization, has opened many new doors for No More Deaths.  They were honored with a rare invitation to testify about the report at hearings on March 27, 2012, before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States in Washington, D.C.  They also gave presentations before the U.N. NGO Commission on Human Rights, the U.N. High Commissioner on Human Rights, and a Congressional briefing in Washington, D.C., as well as at a meeting with a White House policy advisor.  And they will give a workshop presentation on “A Culture of Cruelty” on June 22, 2012, at the UUA Justice General Assembly in Phoenix, along with Amnesty International USA and Standing on the Side of Love.
the Nogales/Mexico Project Working Group, based in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico.  There No More Deaths volunteers has worked since 2006 to provide humanitarian aid to individuals deported from the U.S. to cities along the border.  NMD works in partnership with multiple humanitarian, faith-based and governmental organizations in Northern Sonora and has partnerships in two border communities, Nogales and Agua Prieta. In 2011 almost 55,000 people were deported though Nogales from all over the U.S.  No More Deaths volunteers currently support between 60-120 people a day making phone calls to their families back home, successfully retrieving missing personal belongings confiscated by law enforcement to around 30 people per month, and helping about 50 people a month reconnect with family members separated in deportation. They also provide first aid and medical care at the Mexican Grupos Beta offices, in partnership with the Jesuit-based Kino Border Initiative.
the “We Reject Racism” campaign against Arizona SB 1070, partnering with the immigrant rights group Tierra y Libertad Organizacion.  ”We Reject Racism” was a campaign to sign on small businesses in Tucson to publicly oppose SB 1070 and to educate the community with information, store signs and yard signs.
the “Keep Tucson Together” campaign, to fight separation of immigrant families through deportation.  NMD’s “Keep Tucson Together” volunteers are fighting the deportation orders that were sent to 50 Tucson undocumented immigrants who have no criminal record, and whose spouses and children are either U.S. citizens or have legal residency or visas, and depend upon them for financial and emotional support.  No More Deaths has already succeeded in getting many of these deportation cases administratively closed through a campaign of public activism, media team work and social witness, in conjunction with the legal services of No More Deaths Atty. Margo Cowan.
Below please find media coverage of No More Deaths activities.  As the Media Coverage of No More Deaths shows, No More Deaths has set the standards for high quality research and documentation of human rights abuses by the U.S. Border Patrol against migrants in their custody.  Since that time the ACLU of Arizona, Amnesty International USA, PBS “Frontline” documentary “Lost in Detention” and the media have supported our findings.  Interview requests from the media have greatly increased, with the latest request coming from the BBC to interview NMD volunteers who work on the Mexico side of Nogales with just-deported migrants.

In Tucson, People of Faith, Students & Parents Defend Embattled Ethnic Studies Program

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“As a white parent of a white student, this is of the greatest concern to me. I want my daughter to learn about the values and history of culture outside of that in which she was raised.”
– Kat Sinclair


Kat Sinclair, who is active with the UU Congregation of Tuscon and a volunteer with No Mas Muertes, was among seven people arrested Tuesday evening at a Tuscon Unified School District (TUSD) meeting that appeared close to dismantling the ethnic studies program as a required part of the Tucson school curriculum. Sinclair, a mother of a ninth-grader, was first to be arrested after she tried to address the board in support of the program.

TUSD is trying to compromise with a state law that targets ethnic studies programs by changing Mexican American social studies courses to electives that do not fulfill core requirements. The law in question, HB2281, passed last year within days of SB1070.

Mother Jones reported, “Hispanic students fill nearly half the seats in Arizona’s public school classrooms, but a new law signed by Governor Jan Brewer…makes it illegal for these students to learn about their heritage in school. HB 2281 prohibits schools from offering courses at any grade level that advocate ethnic solidarity, promote overthrow of the US government, or cater to specific ethnic groups—regulations which will dismantle the state’s popular Mexican-American studies programs.”

A teachers’ lawsuit against HB 2281 is ongoing, as is an external audit of the program.

According to the group Save Ethnic Studies, “programs such as Mexican American Studies in Tucson have been instrumental in improving the lives and dreams for thousands of students – classes and services that are now in danger of being eliminated due to partisan Arizona legislation. Arizona legislators have been adding one layer after another to criminalize immigrants and eliminating programs that teach students to think critically and become stakeholders in their communities is part of their larger plan.”

Last week, students stopped the TUSD vote on the proposal by chaining themselves to the board members’ chairs. This week, concerned parents, educators, and community members were arrested by police as they attempted to speak to the school board about the proposal.

This video details the scene and its build-up in full:

Pedicone’s police posse takes over TUSD from Abie Morales on Vimeo.

“This is a demonstration of the ridiculousness of what is happening in Arizona,” Sinclair told Standing on the Side of Love. “There were at least 150 cops at this public meeting – one cop for every two people — and there were helicopters in the air. The woman who attempted to speak right after me is 69 years old and was an educator for 30 years, and I watched them haul her out walking with her cane as they arrested her.”

You can take action! Sign this petition to save ethnic studies in Tuscon and demand the TUSD governing board vote ‘No’ on reducing Ethnic Studies to electives.

Kat Sinclair Attempts to Address the Board

Kat Sinclair Attempts to Address the Board

The note below was sent out by Kat Sinclair, who was unable to deliver her remarks to the Board:

Last night I stood up as a concerned parent at the TUSD School Board meeting and was arrested on a charge of criminal trespass. I was concerned that the Board had not voiced their agreement with Superintendent Pedicone’s recommendation to postpone their vote on Dr. Stegeman’s proposal until a town hall meeting could be held and all voices heard. I was concerned that members of the audience had asked the Board if they would hold a town hall meeting before they voted and were met with silence. Instead, the Board voted (3-2) to cancel the public meeting scheduled for this Thursday that would have been held in a high school auditorium to accommodate our community and include two hours of discussion. They refused the community’s request to extend the call to the audience to ensure that people’s opinions were heard. Instead, Dr. Stegeman announced that they would move on to the next item on the agenda—the vote.

As I was not allowed to speak beyond the first two sentences, I submit the following as an open letter to the TUSD school board:

My name is Dr. Katerina Sinclair and I am the mother of a TUSD high school freshman. Additionally, I hold a PhD in Human Development and Family Studies and a Masters in Applied Statistics from Penn State, along with three other university degrees. I have earned numerous teaching awards, recognitions, and certificates, and I research the effect of inclusive school policies and curricula on in-school victimization, academic outcomes, mental health and suicide risk for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth. Given the recent media coverage of these issues, I trust that I do not have to draw the parallel for this board between the risks faced by LGBT youth and those faced by Mexican American youth, and so this issue is of both personal and professional importance to me.

I stand before you as a concerned parent, but bring my academic background with me. Dr. Stegeman, I will address you directly as this is your proposal. As a fellow college educator, I am sure you are aware of the qualities that universities want in their students. We want students who own their own educations, who take initiative, who go beyond the lecture. We want critical thinkers who can draw parallels, question the status quo, and move themselves up Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives from simple recitation of facts to analysis and synthesis. If our graduates are to compete in this global economy, we need innovative, creative thinkers in the next generation of college students. Finally, and this is most relevant to this discussion, we need students who are able to think outside the box and challenge the assumptions of majority culture. We need students who have the background and ability to understand cultures that are not their own. For this reason, most universities require students to take courses that emphasize intercultural competence, including my alma mater and the University of Arizona.

As a white parent of a white student, this is of the greatest concern to me. I want my daughter to learn about the values and history of culture outside of that in which she was raised. Dr. Stegeman, I have read the articles and position statements that you have written regarding this proposal; you seem to believe that intercultural competence can be gained through incorporating materials on Mexican American history into general social studies classes. Although I appreciate your intention to broaden the coverage of Mexican American history, this is simply not how people learn. Consider if a colleague asked you to give a guest lecture on game theory, your area of expertise, in their freshman economics course. Would you then consider these students to be competent to discuss game theory? I think not. Similarly, we would not teach students the Cyrillic alphabet and then say they learned Russian. Intercultural competence is developed through immersion in another culture and a deep understanding of value systems in the same way that languages are learned through continuous contact.

As I raise my daughter in our racially and culturally mixed city, I want her to have the opportunity for this immersion; I want her to be competitive in an increasingly global context. The answer also does not lie in making these courses electives. Due to her advanced mathematical background, last year my daughter, who was then in middle school, took math courses at Tucson High. Due to the differences in schedules, she was unable to take any elective courses the entire year. As she should be finished with Calculus II by the end of her junior year and she will have to commute to a college to continue her mathematical coursework, we are anticipating similar problems with scheduling in the coming years. My daughter, who is brilliant in both humanities and mathematics, is the type of student we want in our college courses. She is well-rounded and enthusiastic. Please encourage her enthusiasm for learning about other cultures. Do not stifle it. Do not make these courses electives. Expand the course offerings instead to allow for more students to develop critical thinking skills and intercultural competence. Ensure the competitiveness of our graduates for college and job opportunities.

As a parent, as a fellow educator, and as a Tucson community member, I am asking that you remove your proposal from consideration, Dr. Stegeman. Thank you for your time.

A Story of Courageous Love from Southern Arizona

No Comments | Share On Facebook| A Story of Courageous Love from Southern Arizona Share/Save/Bookmark Feb 01, 2011

The message below went out to Standing on the Side of Love supporters on Tuesday, February 1, 2011. You can sign-up for these emails here.

Across the country, many of us are preparing to creatively re-imagine Valentine’s Day. I wanted to share with you an inspiring story of how one community will be celebrating National Standing on the Side of Love Day this year.

Sarah Launius of No More Deaths

Sarah Launius of No More Deaths

In Arizona, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson will present courageous love awards to the organizations behind the We Reject Racism campaign, a strategic collaboration between Tierra Y Libertad Organization, a barrio-based group on the Southside of Tucson that promotes community self-determination and respect for land, people, and culture – and No More Deaths, a predominately Anglo organization that works in Northern Sonora and Southern Arizona with migrants who have recently been repatriated or are currently in the process of crossing the desert.

Sarah Launius, of No More Deaths, describes the campaign as follows:

“Through the We Reject Racism campaign we recognize that attacks on immigrant communities are fundamentally about race and racism – this is to say, they are about who is to be included and who is excluded from our society, and the criteria used to make this distinction. Ours is a multi-cultural vision that seeks to defend the rights and dignity of all people, regardless of ethnicity, status or national origin. Instead of merely framing our work exclusively in terms of SB1070 or “immigrant rights”, we seek to open up the debate and project an embracive notion of citizenship that defends the ability of everyone to live, work and love whomever and wherever they choose.”

By recognizing this courageous love, members of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson are building bridges in their own community to overcome injustice.

Whatever you have planned in your community, will you please add your event to our calendar so that we can celebrate the work of local heroes together, and promote the unity of our message?

Lifting up the courageous love in our lives really does matter.

“We are extremely honored to be recognized with this “Courageous Love” award,” said Sarah Launius. “Notification of this award allows us to reach congregations and supporters throughout the United States, with the hope of building lasting and transformative relationships with one another that transcend the fault lines that too often divide our communities. We must work together if we are to realize the future of an America based on justice and dignity for all.”

This Feb. 14th, and the days surrounding, how will you honor courageous love and promote justice in your community?

Let us know your plans for National Standing on the Side of Love Day so we can celebrate with you.

In partnership for a more just and loving world,

Dan Furmansky

Dan Furmansky
Campaign Manager
Standing on the Side of Love