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Part of our Unitarian Universalist (UU) faith holds that all people go to heaven, not just those with the proper paperwork. That’s why my congregation answered the call from Centro Presente, the National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities, and the Boston New Sanctuary Movement to stand in solidarity with the immigrant community and oppose the anti-immigrant legislation in Arizona.

Along with Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) President Peter Morales, four of my UU colleagues, clergy and leaders from other faith traditions, and leaders of the immigrant community, we gathered in front of the Massachusetts State House yesterday with our banners: "SOMOS" (We Are) and "Standing on the Side of Love with Immigrant Families."

Over fifty people came to the witness: Unitarian Universalists and members of other area churches, a group of Harvard Divinity School students, and immigrant activists. The new law in Arizona, SB1070, authorizes local police to stop anyone suspected of being in the country illegally. Racial profiling and targeting of the Latino community are inevitable outcomes once this law goes into effect. It will create more fear and repression in immigrant communities and embolden bigotry and hatred.

Rev. Morales said, “I am proud of the UUA for supporting comprehensive immigration reform and the New Sanctuary Movement. This is a horrible new law in Arizona. The Standing on the Side of Love campaign is calling on people across the nation to tell their governors, 'No anti-immigrant laws in my state!' The real battle is for the hearts and minds and souls of people in our country. This is a struggle between love and hatred, hope and fear.”

Rev. Kim Crawford-Harvie, of Arlington Street Church UU in Boston, said “Immigration reform is our generation’s Selma.” That message resonated deeply with me. In my congregation in Medford, we have been educating ourselves about the situation of immigrants in our local community. We chose to become a New Sanctuary congregation and to sponsor two families, one from Rwanda and another from Iraq. This commitment is transforming our church. We still have more work to do, but in the tradition of the prophet Micah we are "doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God."

I was inspired to hear Rev. Jennifer Wegter-McNelly, Pastor of the Church of the Covenant, tell the story of her church’s immigrant ministry, and to hear my colleague Rev. Terry Burke, of First Church UU of Jamaica Plain, ask that the same welcome be extended to today’s immigrants that his family received generations ago. Sadly, Jorge Tetzaguic, from Guatemala, told us that his brother recently had been detained, and his family has not yet been able to raise the $7,500 to start legal proceedings to halt deportation.

This story of families torn apart and communities divided is playing out across this nation. Jim Wallace, of Old Cambridge Baptist Church and founder of the sanctuary movement in the 1980's, pointed out that we used to have the INS—the Immigration Naturalization Service. Now we have ICE—Immigration Custom Enforcement. This cold-hearted name reflects the shift that has occurred in our nation.

Bishop Felipe Teixiera, of the Catholic Church of the Americas, closed our witness with a powerful prayer for Americans to open our hearts.

My colleague Rev. Fred Small, minister of First Parish Cambridge UU, led us in song. Together we sang, “Stand with me, won’t you stand with me, and we’ll be the change that we hope to see. In the name of love, in the name of peace, won’t you stand, won’t you stand with me?"

Along with event leaders Patricia Montes, Executive Director of Centro Presente, and Jason Lydon, of the Community Church of Boston (UU), we fifty souls made the commitment to go forth and witness, to advocate for justice for immigrants, and to stand on the side of love.

Rev. Hank Peirce is the minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Medford, MA.

NOTE: UUA President Rev. Morales will be in Phoenix, Arizona for the May 29th protests. Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray, minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Phoenix has invited all UUs to join them.

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