Effective Congregational Immigration Ministries
General Assembly 2012 Event 304
Download the video file (MP4)
Speakers: Rev. Anthony David, Sally Hartman, Bob Lane, Amy Moses-Lagos
Congregational leaders from Iowa, California, and Georgia share experiences with developing and sustaining effective immigration justice ministries. Presenters discuss strategies for public witness, partnering with community organizations, justice immersion trips, engaging youth, and more. A National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) organizer addresses how these partnerships have strengthened the immigrant rights movement.
AMY MOSES-LAGOS: You are here. This is the workshop Effective Congregational Immigration Ministries. And it is number three zero four. So thank you so much for coming.
I'm Amy Moses-Lagos. And I just finished serving as the intern minister at the Mount Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church in Walnut Creek, California. And they have a great immigration task force that we're going to be hearing about a little bit later today. And I just want to say a little bit about what we had in mind with this workshop.
And before I do that, I want to say thanks to Susan Leslie and the Office for Multicultural Growth and Witness of the UUA. They've been really great in helping us plan and organize this workshop. And we have a clipboard if you would like to get on any of their mailing lists that we can send around. So we just want to mention them.
And part of what we're hoping today is that we're here to have Justice General Assembly in Arizona to stand on the side of love with immigrant communities and marginalized groups. And we're doing some really great witness in action. And we're also here to learn and get inspired and to take what we have gained and take it to our home communities.
There are immigration issues going on in communities across the country. So we're really hoping here we can share some ideas, some wisdom from our experiences, and spark some action for you all to take to your own congregations. So thank you so much for being here.
And at this time, let me just give a quick overview. We will hear from each of our speakers. I'll ask some questions to have some dialogue. And then we'll be able to take some questions from the audience. And we also have an organizer from NDLON, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network. I'm hoping she'll be with us in just a few minutes. And she'll share some feedback with us as well. So at this time I will go ahead and introduce our speakers or invite our speakers to introduce themselves.
BOB LANE: Good Morning. My name is Bob Lane. I'm the chair of the immigration task force at the Mount Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church. The church has 445 members. It's located in Contra Costa county in California, which runs from San Francisco Bay to the Sacramento delta. It is the 30th highest county in the nation in terms of the number of people deported, even though it is not a very large county population-wise.
SALLY HARTMAN: Good morning. My name is Sally Hartman. I am President-elect of the Unitarian Universalist Society of Iowa City. And I'm also the former youth leader.
HANNAH KAL KILBERINS: I'm Hannah [? Kal ?] [? Kilberins. ?] And I go to the same church as Sally. And I'm in the youth group.
ANTHONY DAVID: I'm Reverend Anthony David. I'm the senior minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta. And we have around 720 members.
SARAHI URIBE: And I'm Sarahi Uribe with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network. And I'm based in Washington, DC.
AMY MOSES-LAGOS: And at this time, I'd like to invite Sally and Hannah to come up and just give an overview of their exciting immigration justice ministries in their congregation.
SALLY HARTMAN: I couldn't have known when we announced that we were going to have a trip to Guatemala, a intergenerational social action trip, that by spring we would have 29 people signed up to go. That was quite a surprise to me. But I guess I shouldn't be surprised. Because we have done other trips. And there's been a lot of interest in those trips.
We have been to New Orleans. In the last six years, we've been to New Orleans three times and to the border of Mexico one time and Washington, DC once. These trips have meant for us an opportunity to work, to witness, and to worship together.
The reason we go on these trips is to challenge our assumptions about ourselves and others, to understand injustice. For example, the injustice that we discovered in Guatemala was why people leave to immigrate. And finally, another reason we go is to create a culture of activism. And that is one of the outcomes.
So some other outcomes are that we've ended up with a really strong youth group. We've increased volunteerism. In fact, two of our college students right now are taking time off from their studies to do volunteerism and activism. One of them is doing it for marriage equality. You might have heard about Zack Wells and his video speech that went viral.
Also, there's been an interest in the larger community, the church community, even if they haven't been on any of the trips. They really support a lot of our efforts and have then carried on with different activities of social activism. We have a social activism task force now.
So we've taken a lot of trips. But we're still on the journey, on a new journey, of social activism. Now I'm going to turn it over to Hannah to talk a little bit about her experiences.
HANNAH KAL KILBERINS: So I went to Guatemala. And I learned a lot while I was there. And I don't know. I felt like I learned a lot and I grew a lot in just two weeks. And I really became aware of other cultures, because it's so much different there, and how cool it kind of is.
And I realized that we see a lot of things on the news that are happening that are so bad. But then we just kind of change the channel. It's so bad. And we don't really do much. So I feel like going to Guatemala we actually did something. And it was actually a lot of fun, too.
A lot of people in Guatemala are really poor. But even though they're poor, they were really happy and all connected to each other. The first town we were in was smaller. But everyone knew each other. And they're all like a huge family. And they don't have much. But they know how to live with it.
And here we seem really selfish. We have so much. And we just keep asking for more. And we're never satisfied. And I don't know. I really liked it. It was fun.
AMY MOSES-LAGOS: Thank you, both. And I'd like to invite Bob Lane to come and share with us.
BOB LANE: One of the handouts is a history of our immigration task force, which pretty much lists all the various activities that we've prompted in the church. So what I'd like to do is, rather than going over that, is to talk about the strategies that come through in the events that we've put on. It's not that these were conscious strategies.
But I believe on reflecting back on what we've done we've tried to do two things, grow our roots and spread our wings. What I mean by grow our roots starts with the individual members of the task force beginning to understand why we were there, what in our experience brought us there, what connection did we make between our Unitarian Universalist faith and the work that we did on immigration.
And I think that's important. Because throughout our history the task force has always tried to make the connection between our faith and the work we were doing explicit. So whenever we wrote a letter advocating something or criticizing a policy, we always made sure that we wrote that letter as a faith group and explained why it is that we thought our faith called us to take the position that we were taking.
The second thing is we have established a community among those on the task force that has grown naturally out of the work that we have done together. But I think that's very important. Because the work is long and sometimes difficult and often joyous. And sharing it just deepens the work and creates bonds among us that I treasure.
The third thing is trying to make the work that we're doing a part of the congregation's life. The very first thing we did was we held a worship service. And one of the handouts you have that begins with the word reflections is a part of what was said at the worship service in terms of beginning the conversation in the congregation about immigration.
Not everyone in our congregation feels the way we do about the issues surrounding immigration. So what we did is, rather than start with policy discussion or an analysis, we invited people who had been or were undocumented to come and speak to us. And their voices in the worship service were very powerful.
And having a worship service puts the concerns about immigration squarely in the midst of the congregation's life. And for those of you who want to start a conversation, you might take a look at that handout on reflections.
We did a number of educational events, a forum about the impact of NAFTA, the economic ramifications of immigration. Amy taught a course, the course on Immigration is a Moral Issue that she will talk about. We found that we weren't getting the kind of response that we were looking for.
So we instituted a pattern of one on ones where we picked people to talk to basically to take their temperature. Our goal was not to persuade them that they should join us or take a particular view on immigration but to find out where they were on immigration so when we planned an event we would have that knowledge. And that helped to expand the area of concern in our congregation about immigration as well as giving us an opportunity to get to know our fellow congregants better.
We had several workshops, one on the death of Josseline, one on talking to the media that was hosted by the California Immigration Policy Center, one on the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, which is legislation pending before the California legislature. And then we helped to host a district conference on immigration.
So all of that is under the category of grow your roots. And we will talk a little bit later about spreading your wings, about what we mean by that, which is basically going beyond the walls of the congregation.
AMY MOSES-LAGOS: And I'll just say briefly about the class. It was a good experience. It wasn't a huge turnout. We had about nine people. But I think, for the people who took it, it really deepened their commitment to immigration justice and their understanding of the issues.
And there were a couple of folks who had not been involved in the immigration task force and the justice activities of the church. And that was really their entry point. And they've become very involved.
So it's a great curriculum the UUA does. It's very easy to lead as a facilitator. So I definitely recommend it. And I'd like to invite Reverend Anthony David to come and share with us.
ANTHONY DAVID: Good morning.
AUDIENCE: Good morning.
ANTHONY DAVID: At the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta, I have a multiple staff team. And what we do in the course of a year is very much determined by my executive growth plan that I establish each year. And I work to develop that plan with my staff, with lay leaders. And for the past two years, one of our key goals has been to make sure that at least 20% of our congregation is actively engaged in our immigration ministries.
And of course, to actively engage people, I mean that's one thing. That's getting people out there to do legislative action. But in order to make that happen, there's got to be a lot of work with far more people to get them informed and to get their hearts involved in this work. And so in developing this particular goal for my executive growth plan and working with my ministry staff and with lay leaders, we decided that four particular directions would be helpful in this regard.
And certainly one is the idea of building beloved community, working on developing the fabric of multiculturalism in our congregation. One of the things that we absolutely eschew at UUCA is paternalism, the idea that we have all the wisdom and knowledge and people out there need our help.
We wanted to really understand how we personally connected with this issue of immigration reform. And so one of the things that we did actually in worship for six weeks running was we invited congregants to share their immigration stories. And some of the congregations they shared stories of hardship and of heroism coming from their grandparents or their great-grandparents. Some congregants they shared their stories of being undocumented.
And we got to hear these amazing stories, people talking about their experiences. And these are our people. And this helps us. This helped us to build that sense of beloved community.
We've established a kind of fellowship group for people of color in our congregation. I worked with them directly in developing a intentionally multicultural worship experience for Sunday morning. It was fantastic but developing these partnerships, developing this sensibility within the congregation, building beloved community.
And that became the basis for more intentional immigration action focused on the injustices that we were seeing in Atlanta and beyond. The house bills that we're dealing with were all Arizona copycat, HB-59, HB-87, sort of the national level law 287-G of the Immigration and Nationalization Act, focusing on these injustices that we're seeing.
So beyond the worship, beyond building beloved community, we wanted that to have center stage in our worship life. So we did a number of things there. Of course, I preached on immigration reform. My colleague preached on that getting the congregation informed and engaged. We have a group in our congregation, the Racial and Ethnic Concerns group, which is lay led. And they did a lot of work in this particular area featuring book studies and films, lots of conversations around this.
We were very much in coalition with a lot of community partners in this particular effort so, for example, the Latin American Association, we did a lot of work with them, the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, a lot of work with them, the ACLU in terms of legislative action, the mid-south district, the Standing on the Side of Love People. So we were doing this work, this work of raising awareness in connection with these particular groups and then, of course, getting out there and actually getting beyond our congregation walls.
And so many of our people you could find them very often in the halls of the Georgia state legislature talking to our elected officials. That was very eye opening, that experience. Certainly, that was done very much with the ACLU in partnership with them.
I know last summer we had a massive gathering of people concerned about immigration reform in Atlanta, 10,000, 15,000 people in downtown. And I had the honor of being able to address that group. And I've got a YouTube video out there. And it was really amazing. You've never lived until you've spoken to 15,000 people. And it's about as hot as it is today out there.
I know one of the things that we did I wrote a letter to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, our main newsletter. And I invited as many as possible of the ministers in Georgia to join me in signing this letter. It got great publicity. It was all over the place. It got a lot of hate mail. I mean, again, you've never lived until you've gotten reams of hate mail.
But these were some ways in which we got out there. There's a lot more to say. But I'll save some of that stuff for the next question. So we're excited. I mean I think a value for us certainly beyond justice is that of friendship.
I'm thinking in particular of a quote that I love from Martin Luther King, Junior. He said, "men often hate each other because they fear each other. They fear each other because they don't know each other. They don't know each other because they cannot communicate. They cannot communicate because they are separated."
And so our work is about healing that sense of separation in ourselves, in our existing communities, and between ourselves and the larger world. So I think that our work really was towards friendship, building friendships. That's a little bit.
AMY MOSES-LAGOS: Thank you. And at this time, I have a few questions prepared for our panelists. And I'd actually like to start with Sally and Hannah if that's all right.
Your congregation does such a great job with having multi-generational justice activities. So my question is, how have youth been involved in your immigration ministries? And what sorts of multi-generational activities have you done?
SALLY HARTMAN: Like I, excuse me, like I said before, we had done a number of social action trips. But what I didn't say is how those went. And we learned from experience that, when you do a social action trip, when you make it multi-generational because you want that interaction between the teens and the rest of the congregation, and that's really exciting to see that.
Another thing you have to do to involve everyone is begin early to plan the trip and prepare people. So we had orientation. We had a series of orientations. And those orientations including watching the movie abUSed The Postville Raid, which is about a raid in Iowa. And we had people from the university come and talk about Guatemalan history. So we tried to prepare everyone really well.
Then the trip itself we would have reflection times. And we would have worship times and times to be together to process what we went through. Then in the end we did several sessions where we were talking about the trip. And it's kind of debriefing. Because it is a reverse culture shock coming back.
So I'm going to turn it over to Hannah. And she can talk a little bit more about the Guatemalan trip.
HANNAH KAL KILBERINS: So we are in Guatemala for two weeks. And so the first week we were in a smaller town. And it was a safer town. You could go out longer and do stuff as long as you were with another person. And we stayed in host families with either by yourself or one other person depending how much Spanish you knew and how comfortable you were.
And every morning we'd go and we were taught Spanish in groups of how much Spanish you know by some teachers there. And that was really cool. And we'd go around. My group was, I didn't really know any Spanish. So we'd learned a little. And then we'd walk around the town and try to try out our Spanish with people that were working around. And that was pretty fun.
And we did things like planting coffee. We'd climb up the mountain. We planted a bunch of coffee. And we climbed up a big mountain one morning really early. And that was a bunch of fun.
Then the second week we were in a bigger town. And we had to be inside at a certain time. And you had to be in bigger groups. It was a little more dangerous. And a bunch more adults came that week.
And every morning we went to a school. And the school is, the street is down here, to get up to the school, there's a big hill. And it's really rainy in Guatemala. So the hill was dirt and mud. And so it turned really muddy. And it was really hard to get up. And by the time the kids were at the top, they'd be all muddy and dirty. And that was no fun.
So for the whole week we built a pavement all the way up to the school. And so we mixed cement by hand with a bunch of guys. It was really hard. But it was really fun to watch. And we went to a place to eat all week. And that was a bunch of fun, too.
AMY MOSES-LAGOS: Thank you so much. And I want to take advantage of being the facilitator by just mentioning the youth at the Mount Diablo UU Church who have been doing awesome, awesome work. They've been educating themselves. They've been educating their peers in workshops.
And they did a great timeline that was in our social hall. And Nicki's a part of that. So I just want to say they've been doing awesome work. And Bob and I haven't been as involved. But we've definitely seen everything that's been going on. It's really good.
And my next question I'm actually going to direct at myself, which is about our programming, which is, how have you partnered with local immigrant rights organizations or UU state and national campaigns and organizations? And how have these partnerships been helpful?
So I really wanted to share about this. Because it's been one of the highlights of my internship experience this year. We have worked with the East Bay Interfaith Immigration Coalition. It's a group of faith leaders committed to immigration justice who meet monthly to work on issues and to learn about what's going on in the communities. And they also coordinate monthly vigils at a local detention center where immigrants are detained.
And they do a really great job of keeping people updated on what's going on. And I've been to the meetings. Bob's been to the meetings. And some other folks have gone as well.
And through this relationship, we learned about a situation in Berkeley with the Pacific Steel Casting Company, one of the largest employers in Berkeley. And what happened there is that the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Agency conducted an I-9 audit, sometimes called a silent raid. They basically forced the company to check the immigration paperwork of the workers.
And what happened is that over 200 people were laid off as a result of this audit. And these were people who had lived in the community for years, worked there for five to 20 years. So you can imagine a lot of them are parents. So it was a really very immediate devastating economic impact for the community.
And the workers, they basically had a date when they knew they were going to be let go. And they started organizing before that and started to raise awareness about their situation. And so I actually met many of the former employees through going to these meetings and formed relationships there. And we were able to invite them to come and share with our congregation in a few different ways.
So we invited Ana Castano, one of the former workers, to come and speak at a vigil that we had at the detention center. We also had an event where I invited a few other folks, David Herrera, Adriana, and Alan, to come and speak with our congregation about how this had affected their families and what was really going on in their lives.
And it was a great opportunity to make that personal connection and to have people hear directly from those impacted by these issues. And we didn't just hear from them. We also said, how can we help? And how can we be in partnership with you?
And as a result, we did a food drive. We collected food for the families and Safeway gift cards. And they also held a march and rally in Berkeley that they invited us to. And so we wore our yellow shirts. And we marched with the faith contingent.
So I just think that was so important. Because we were able to be in partnership with a local immigrant group that was very well-organized and able to say, how can we be good allies to you?
And just one more thing I want to mention is we've also worked with the Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry California. They're a state-wide justice ministry that empower youths to live out their values in the public square. And they have recently started working on immigration. Bob and I happen to be on the steering committee for that. So it's been good.
And they, UULM, participated in a lobby day in Sacramento with organizations from all over the state/ And over 400 people participated. So we went and advocated for the Trust Act.
And the Trust Act would reform the Secure Communities program in California. How many of you have heard a little bit about the Secure Communities? Yeah, OK, great, yeah.
So this is a horrible, horrible deportation program where the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, basically, local law enforcement, when people are arrested, they share the fingerprints with ICE. And if ICE thinks the person might be deportable, they ask the local jail to hold them for a longer period of time so they can be transferred to ICE.
Most of the people who are swept up in this program either don't have a criminal record or just have a minor offense, like a traffic violation. Families are being split up. And there's victims of crimes who have been detained.
And it doesn't make communities safe at all. It makes them less safe. Because people are afraid to talk to law enforcement. Anyway, there's a handout about that if you would like to learn more.
And so we were there to advocate for what would be California legislation to reform SCom and have protections for people who are victims of crimes and so on and so forth. So it would mitigate the harmful effects of that. So those are just two of our partnerships that have been really helpful that I wanted to mention.
And I would like to ask Anthony, could you say more about what a multifaceted immigration initiative looks like?
ANTHONY DAVID: Well, we often say that we have all sorts of resources in our congregation, which we do, people resources, knowledge resources, financial resources. I think the issue always is, how do we marshal those resources? How do we organize them? How do we all go in the same direction?
And depending on the size of the congregation, the answer's going to be different. But whatever the means to that answer, is, if it's possible to rally people around a shared vision, amazing things can happen. And at UUCA, because it's so large, it does require something like an executive growth plan, which gets my staff thinking about all the ways in which their actions for the upcoming year can be in alignment with the basic priorities I set.
And then working with laypeople, what are the kinds of things they can do that can harmonize with the basic priority set? And with that way of gathering it, in my congregation, what we end up with is we end up with certain things that are preplanned but also amazing creativity, stuff we could never have imagined happening popping up. It's a way of releasing creativity.
So it's not like a micromanagement from top down. I think, when it goes wrong, that's what it's like. But we've done it well at UUCA. And so what I want to talk about in terms of the multifaceted initiative is I just want to share some of these programs that we've done which reflect careful forethought but then also this wonderful creative upsurge from the grassroots. It's a wonderful blend of that.
So definitely there are four pillars. We're realizing at UUC that there are at least four pillars for a multifaceted approach to immigration justice in our congregations. And I've already suggested what they are. One is definitely building beloved community, really getting clear in our own persons as congregants, where does this issue connect with us on a heart level?
And so for example, the immigration testimonies in worship was just a wonderful way of just starting that conversation among ourselves. Most of us are immigrants. And so we've got stories to tell, to share. It's not just about the other. We don't have an other here.
Another way in which we really worked to build this beloved community among us was to create that fellowship group called Cultural Mosaic. And if you check our website out, you can find out more information about that fantastic group, that wonderful group, where people of color can gather and can feel at home with each other. It's a feeling of empowerment. It's a friendship activity group. It's spawned various covenant groups or small groups, groups that are more intentional about particular topics they want to focus on, spirituality groups.
But the basic fellowship group is a place where the people of color in our congregation, and we have a lot of them, can find a place to feel safe and to feel heard and kind of along the same lines as an interweave group in other congregations and various groups like that. And that's been wonderful for the fabric of our congregation. So building that beloved community, ways in which we can acknowledge differences.
I mean I think our Universalist emphasis on love is really important here, a love that's curious about differences, a love that wants to connect and unite. And that's building beloved community.
A second pillar is bringing in the worship life. Worship gathers people. That is just the central place in which people come, in congregations. It's what really connects us and so emphasizing the kinds of things that happen in the worship service. We've heard wonderful examples of this already. So I won't spend more time on that.
A third pillar, getting the congregation informed and engaged about this particular issue, one of the favorite things that we did, for me, one of the favorite things that we did was we hosted an immigration summit. And I think we gathered maybe 60, 70 people to come to that event. We started out by sharing our stories. We had an immigration timeline in our social hall. It covered our entire social hall, again, getting a sense of what is our personal connection with this particular issue.
And then we talked about grounding our work in our Unitarian Universalist values and how each of our values is immediately directly related to this particular issue. And I think that's very important. Because our beloved community is not generic beloved community. It is Unitarian Universalist beloved community. And so how do our UU values relate to this work that we're about?
And then getting really clear about what's happening in Georgia and here's where our coalition partners are really important. Jerry Gonzales, the executive director of GALEO, came to speak and really did a great job in giving us a sense of what is happening right now in Georgia. What are the needs? A member of our congregation is a state senator, Senator Nan Orrock. She was there as well. She gave us a sense of what's going on in the state legislature.
And then Barbara Burnham, the lead in our racial and ethnic concerns group, did some work with us. Then Q&A then small groups and then what's our action plan? What are we going to do from here? And so just a wonderful way in the course of five or six hours of organizing, of getting people excited, getting people personally connected with the issue. I'd highly recommend some kind of tactic like that, an immigration summit. That was really good for us.
Finally, a fourth pillar of a multifaceted initiative is certainly getting out there, getting a way of making that connection with the larger community. And again, I've suggested some ways we've done that. But one thing I really want to speak to is our fiesta de libros mobile library project.
Now, one of the organizations that we worked with in our immigration initiative was our district and this past year at our healthy congregations conference, and this is the mid-south district that I'm in, at our healthy congregations conference, which was held at UUCA, the focus was on immigration reform. Jerry Gonzales, that executive director of GALEO, he was the keynote speaker talking about this issue.
One of the I guess more exciting things I'd say at this conference was a multi-generational workshop and field trip. And the project I mentioned a moment ago emerged out of this multi-generational experience where people of all ages were talking about the history and traditions and culture and religious items of the various cultures in our community wrestling with the issue of immigration.
And then the entire group took a field trip over to Plaza Fiesta, which is like kind of a main center of Hispanic culture in our community and not very far off from where we are at UUCA on a place called Buford Highway, which is just this fantastic corridor which just features, food, and shops and so on from people all around the world. Atlanta is just overflowing with ethnic and cultural diversity.
But a group of our kids going over to Plaza Fiesta, seeing what was happening there, and this idea simmering or bubbling up out of this experience very creatively out of the heart of one of our main leaders, Laura Murvartian, who is a member of the GALEO leadership team who was herself undocumented for many years, she had this wonderful idea. What would it be like in terms of building friendship to have a mobile library featured here at Plaza Fiesta?
And so this wonderful program grew out of this multi-generational workshop at our mid-south district healthy congregations conference. And I want to just say something very briefly about the mobile library project. I want to find the mission statement to it. When you got a big congregation, you got a lot of paperwork. There's just too much going on. You know what I'm saying? When you're the senior minister. you got to run this stuff down the best you can.
Well, I'll just say it's about building friendship. It's about strengthening people's lives. It's about literacy. And that's something that is very important for the Latino culture, for our culture. It's a place where we can find common ground.
And so I think the average is 70 or 80 children served in the course of a couple hours in the midst of just this amazing Plaza Fiesta experience, people from different cultures meeting and talking and connecting. And it's just this wonderful program. And this is just one of the ways in which we're building those partnerships and friendships and getting across the highway. We kind of talk about it on those terms.
So again, it's not about paternalism. It's about how can we share in this effort to strengthen the fabric of our society. It's legislative action for sure. But it's more than that, too. So it's a little bit about a multifaceted, the four pillars of it.
BOB LANE: I have just a couple of quick comments on the question of finding and establishing partnerships. Many immigrants are low-income workers. And because of their status they are exploited as low-income workers. In some instances, there are unions that represent them. And those unions are potential allies which we don't look to enough to establish partnerships with.
There's a country club in the town I live in, Pleasanton, California, that locked out its primarily immigrant workers two and 1/2 years ago because those workers are represented by a union. And the union has devoted its resources to keeping those workers organized and energized and supporting them through the strike fund in the county. For two and 1/2 years, those workers have showed up seven days a week picketing the club. They've had special events periodically to get community support.
The culture of solidarity that I have witnessed within that union and between unions is something that we can all learn from. We use that word often very easily. But what I have seen in that culture is that those people walk the talk. So look around and see if there are places where the immigration issue and workers' rights overlap. Because that presents a whole potential area of allies.
Secondly, the Secure Communities program is organized by the government on a county by county basis. They have basically enlisted all county law enforcement agencies as immigration agents. That presents an enormous opportunity for organizing on a local level.
In many, many, many counties in this country, there are already organizations working to push back against Secure Communities. We don't have to invent the wheel. We can join with them.
We participate in a task force in Contra Costa county. We've met with the sheriff. We've gotten some information from the sheriff. We're meeting with the board of supervisors. And there are several counties in California that have already turned down any further cooperation with the Secure Communities program. And that makes a huge difference.
Since we started meeting here today, approximately 50 people have been deported. Every hour of every day in the whole year, 45 people an hour are deported. And the Secure Communities program is a major way that the government is doing it.
And the more that we can push back, the more that policy is likely to change and the more that we are likely to stop deportation of people who represent no threat whatsoever but, in fact, are contributing to our society. And because it's organized on a county by county basis, there is a real opportunity for Unitarian Universalist churches in the county to get together and to get together with other organizations to push back against that program.
AMY MOSES-LAGOS: Thank you so much, Bob. Those are really important points. Thanks, everyone. And at this time, I'd like to invite Sarahi to share some of your perspective from NDLON and how NDLON has found partnering with faith communities to be helpful and just any comments you have based on our conversation.
SARAHI URIBE: Well, thanks so much for having me. Again, my name is Sarahi, and I'm with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network. We're a national network of 41 affiliate organizations that work with day laborers either in street corners or in worker centers.
And we've launched an initiative called the Restoring Trust Campaign. And it's exactly what Bob just mentioned. Because we're faced with these historic levels of deportations and we've seen our family members, friends, and our communities really devastated by the Secure Communities program, we really are excited about the fact that there is a way out, there is a way that we can demand that our local officials, that our taxpayers dollars, that our local law enforcement is not complicit with this broken and draconian immigration enforcement system.
And in Washington, DC, where I live and I also locally organize, I've worked closely with Craig Roshaven from the Unitarian Universalist Association. And he's just been wonderful in terms of standing right next to us at press conferences, at rallies. He's testified before our council members and also nationally reaching out to other denominations to join.
So the Restoring Trust Campaign is now a part of the Interfaith Immigrant Coalition nationally. And there are a number of other denominations that are also starting to participate. So in Washington, DC, I'm actually happy to report that just this past month we did pass our legislation. And now our jail is not going to hold people for immigration if they have not been convicted of a violent and dangerous crime. And that-- well, thank you.
SARAHI URIBE: And that was part of a broad coalition, including the Unitarian Universalist Association, and really inspired from the work that's happening in California, which I think is one of the strongest areas in terms of pushing back against these programs. In Massachusetts, Mass Action, Jesse Jaeger, I don't know if you guys know him. But they've been incredibly involved in these efforts locally as well. They're trying to also pass local ordinances, local policies, that ensure that local governments are not turning people over who pose no threat to public safety.
And of course, in California, the Trust Act was just mentioned. Just this morning the New York Times endorsed the Trust Act. It's huge. Yeah, that deserves another round of applause. But I can't emphasize how important it would be to pass this legislation. California has deported 78,000 people through SCom, more than Maricopa county, Arizona if you can believe that.
So California is seen as this progressive beacon or a place that was literally built by immigrants. And yet, it's deporting more people than Maricopa county through SCom. Seven out of 10 of the people deported through SCom in California are for minor offenses or no conviction at all. So that's the scale. That's the kind of impact that passing the Trust Act would have in California.
Thousands of people would be prevented from deportation and would be able to walk home to their families. So it's huge. And I think it would also change the national debate if a place as big as California pass something like this.
So I think it's great that the UU legislative ministry of California is working on this and that so many other organizations across the state of California are working on it locally and statewide. And that's really what the Restoring Trust Campaign is. We invite folks to, as Bob mentioned, find those local partners. Come talk to me.
On the Interfaith Immigration Coalition website, there's a map that lists those local partners. And Craig and I are very happy to work with folks to kind of make those connections as well.
AMY MOSES-LAGOS: All right, well, I'll ask one more question of our panelists. And then we'll open it up to questions from the audience. So start thinking about what you might want to ask this group. And for all of you, if you had to think of one suggestion about starting or developing an immigration ministry to share with this audience, what would it be? And I'll start with Bob. And we can pass the mike that way.
BOB LANE: Well, I would just underscore what Anthony said. Having a worship service organized around the phenomenon of immigration is crucial. It puts the issue right in the center of a congregation's life. And it sends the message that the values that we cherish as a movement need to be brought to bear on what's happening in our country.
And what's happening is awful. I don't know if any of you are aware. But one of the provisions of SB-1070 holds that, if you hire a day laborer who turns out to be undocumented, you have committed a crime. If you see someone injured on the side of the road and you give them a ride to the hospital and they turn out to be undocumented, you have committed a crime. The good Samaritan would be hauled into jail in Arizona if the person that he helped was undocumented.
The purpose of measures like this is to separate undocumented people. It's to isolate them so in the notorious words of Mitt Romney they will self-deport. One of the most important things that we can do is make sure that we stand with them, that we do not allow them to be separated and isolated.
That is our calling when we say we are all part of the interdependent web of existence and we call for world community among all people and justice for all. And I think that's crucial for us to stand with these people and let everybody know that we're standing there.
SALLY HARTMAN: I agree with Bob about the worship services. But my tip is to involve youth. Tomorrow, during the National Day of Service for UUs, some youth and adults will be working together on some social justice issues. So whether it's trips, whether it's doing what you are doing as adults, but my suggestion is involved the youth, invite them, ask them what they want to do.
HANNAH KAL KILBERINS: What? Nothing from you? She's talking for me.
ANTHONY DAVID: She said it all?
HANNAH KAL KILBERINS: Uh-huh.
ANTHONY DAVID: Come on. Really? Sure? You sure? She talked-- what about youth empowerment? Whatever happened to youth empowerment? Oh, so you told her to say that. OK. All right.
My tip is have a goal, have a goal. This work is important enough to engage the entire congregation. And it's multifaceted. It speaks to all aspects of our being. So if the congregation can establish a goal for itself, we're going to engage this. We want at least 20%, 40% of our congregations doing something directly about this.
Then what's involved in making that happen? And it starts the creative gears going. And it gets people in different areas of the congregation thinking together. And your congregation may be a smaller congregation where perhaps your board, for example, directs the various program areas. Get the board talking about it.
I mean how can religious education contribute to this effort? How can the worship life contribute to it? How can the other various areas of the congregation contribute to this effort? And so that leads to that multifaceted effect. That leads to wonderful, creative bubbling up of ideas that you would never have gotten to unless you had set that goal initially out there, we want X percentage of our congregants to be personally involved in this issue.
And then run with it. See what happens. And it's just goals change congregations. So that's my tip. Do you have a tip for us?
SARAHI URIBE: I do, well, mostly just a plug, again, for the Restoring Trust Campaign to partner with local immigrant rights groups, to ask those questions of your law enforcement and your local elected officials. Why are we complicit in this deportation enforcement when we don't have to be? We have a choice. So that's my little plug.
AMY MOSES-LAGOS: Great. So we'll go ahead and open it up to questions from all of you. If you could please come to the mike and speak in to the mike, that would be great so we can all hear you and it can be recorded. And if anyone is not able to get to the mike, feel free to raise your hand. And we can bring you a mike.
For more information contact socialjustice @ uua.org.
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Last updated on Monday, March 25, 2013.
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