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Sanctuary: Summary of Relevant Unitarian Universalist Statements

In the 1980s, many Unitarian Universalist congregations were

actively involved in the Sanctuary movement, which provided support,

housing and

assistance to Central American refugees who were largely

being denied asylum by

the United States Government.

The UUA (Unitarian Universalist Association)

strongly supported this movement: three General Assemblies of the UUA

endorsed sanctuary for refugees (1980, 1984, and 1985), and a 1986


Resolution established a Unitarian Universalist Sanctuary Fund to


individuals seeking sanctuary and to aid churches providing


  • The 1980 General Assembly resolved to "...urge local

    societies and

    individuals to support their government's efforts in assisting

    refugees; and...[to]...urge local societies to investigate ways to aid


    through programs of sponsorship, language lessons, vocational

    training, and

    other forms of community support as well as programs of

    education and

    consciousness raising on the refugee problem for their

    members and local

    communities." (Refugee Assistance, 1980 General



  • The 1984 General Assembly "...urge[d] Unitarian Universalists to support

    actively those Unitarian Universalist societies and other religious communities


    offer sanctuary to El Salvadoran and other Central American

    refugees." (Concerning Central American Refugees,

    1984 Action General



  • The 1985 General Assembly, recognizing that some Unitarian Universalist

    congregations " an active participatory form of protest and

    witness..." urged

    UU World to publish a list of UU (Unitarian Universalist) congregations

    participating in the Sanctuary

    movement, and urged individual

    congregations, clusters and districts to "...give

    careful and

    compassionate consideration to the issue of sanctuary..."  It also strongly

    urged the Social

    Responsibility Section of the UUA to:

    Gather and disseminate information

    about sanctuary, including the

    tradition and current activities of Unitarian

    Universalist societies

    and other denominations...To study the initiation and

    conduct of

    sanctuary in UU societies and develop relevant materials specifically

    for the guidance of other UU societies and groups; foster

    discussion of

    sanctuary through meetings, seminars, and workshops.

    (Sanctuary, 1985 Business Resolution)

  • In

    1986, the Board expressed their support for the Sanctuary

    movement by creating a

    Unitarian Universalist Sanctuary Fund "for the

    purpose of supporting sanctuary

    defendants, sanctuary churches and for

    the direct support of those in need of

    sanctuary." (Sanctuary Fund,

    June 1986 Board Resolution)

Immigration Reform: Summary of Relevant UUA Statements

Recent statements by the General Assembly strongly condemn the current

immigration system, support immigration reform, and encourage support


immigrants, regardless of immigration status.  The 2006 and 1995

General Assemblies

supported comprehensive reform, resolving to

"Support just and comprehensive

immigration reform...[including]...the

creation of an accessible and timely process

to obtain residency and

citizenship" (Support Immigrant Justice, 2006 Action

of Immediate

Witness) and to "...demand...from both state and federal lawmakers

humane solutions to the very complex social issues relating to


persons in this country" (A Call to


Humane Treatment of Immigrants, 1995 Resolution of Immediate


The UUA has also encouraged direct aid to immigrants: the 1995 GA (General Assembly) urged

Unitarian Universalists "to serve those

directly harmed" by legislation

infringing on immigrants' rights and/or limiting

access to health,

education, and welfare services.  (A Call to Conscious, Humane Treatment of

Immigrants, 1995 Resolution of Immediate Witness).

Last year,

the 2006 GA called on

Unitarian Universalist congregations and

individuals to "...continue providing

services and fellowship to

undocumented individuals even if legislation is

passed that

criminalizes these humanitarian acts."

Most recently, at the 2007 General Assembly, delegates passed


Action of Immediate Witness to Support Immigrant

Families—Stop the

ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) Raids that calls for


immediate moratorium of all inhumane raids and resulting


UUA Immigration Policy

While there is no one comprehensive UUA statement on immigration policy, the

following is a summary of

and excerpts from Social Justice Statements

which pertain to immigration and

foreign nationals:

"A Call to Conscious, Humane Treatment of Immigrants" 1995 Resolution of Immediate Witness

"Because we covenant as Unitarian Universalists to affirm the inherent worth

and dignity of every person; and...we covenant as Unitarian

Universalists to

promote justice, equity, and compassion in human


Universalists we cannot in conscience condone the

systematic refusal of humane

social services to needy persons and their

families based on immigration status,

national origin, or


And the UUA resolved to "...demand...from both state and federal lawmakers


solutions to the very complex social issues relating to

undocumented persons in

this country, and a just application of human

rights at both the state and

national levels for all people living

within our borders; and urges individual

Unitarian Universalists in the

United States to serve those directly harmed and

others affected by the

passage of any legislation which would deny human beings

the basic

services warranted to all members of a free and just society."

Specifically, the UUA was gravely concerned by the passage of legislation

(California Prop

187) which "...would deny essential health, education,

and welfare services to

undocumented workers, and restrict such

services also to legal immigrants who

are not citizens" and which

inspired similar national legislation.

"Civil Liberties," 2004 Statement of Conscience

"We demand

that Attorney General John Ashcroft be held fully

accountable for his advocacy

of policies that have eroded civil

liberties, including the refusal to provide

constitutionally guaranteed

legal representation to detained individuals,

American citizens and

non-citizens alike...We affirm the right of foreign nationals to due process and

the presumption of innocence, and we oppose

unwarranted tracking and

reporting requirements that abridge those rights."

"Sanctuary," 1985

UU congregations have a history of providing sanctuary to refugees.  Because

"...Unitarian Universalists have

had a long-standing concern over the

plight of those who seek refuge from the

oppression suffered by them in

many countries of the world...some Unitarian

Universalist Societies had

declared themselves as sanctuaries to house and

assist individual

refugees and their families, as an active participatory form

of protest

and witness..." UU congregations are therefore urged "


careful and compassionate consideration to the issue of sanctuary..."

"Immigration," 1963 General Resolution

The UUA, in 1963, supported Senate Bill No. 747 , entitled "A Bill to Amend

the Immigration and Nationality Act," to:

"Remove the purely arbitrary barriers to immigration on the basis of race and

national origin and would substitute a new formula based on equality



"Facilitate the reunion of families now separated because of inequities in

the act of 1952…"Enhance America's economic growth rate by eliminating

obstacles to the admission of persons who possess talents and skills


needed in this country…Provide a continuing and orderly, but

flexible, authority

for the yearly admission of a reasonable number of

refugees. . .Bring our

traditional principles into a creative relation

with the facts of the modern


"The Refugee Internment Camp at Harlingen, Texas" 1989 Resolution of Immediate Witness

The UUA opposed a specific INS policy which "...constitute[d] a

comprehensive and shocking denial of basic human rights and due process


are the cornerstones of United States and international law."

Namely, the UUA condemned an INS detention site for Central American

Refugees, and "call[ed]

upon the United States Congress and federal

administration to end their brutal

and immoral policies, and return the

INS to the rule of law and respect for

human rights."

"Migratory Workers," 1961 General Resolution

The UUA supported policy drawn up by the Senate Sub-Committee on Migratory

Labor which will accomplish the following:

  • Provide

    for an agricultural minimum wage.

  • Prohibit agricultural child labor.
  • Provide for the education of migrant children.
  • Provide for the education of migrant adults.
  • Require the registration of agricultural labor contractors.
  • Assist in the providing of housing for domestic farm labor.
  • Make the provisions of the National Labor Relations Act applicable to


  • Provide for the stabilization of the farm work force.
  • Supply improved health services for migrant families.
  • Supply improved welfare services for migrant children.
  • Establish a Citizen's Council on Migratory Labor.

"Children Held by the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service" 1992 General Resolution

The UUA resolved "[to urge]...the United States Congress and Administration


require that when the INS detains children they be held, whenever

possible, with

their families in accredited shelter care programs or

facilities that are state

licensed for dependent care or in INS

facilities that meet state standards"

and "...that when the protection

of public welfare demands that parents be detained

separately from

their children, when the parents are not available or when the


wish to have their children released, then the INS be urged to release

detained children to responsible parties in this order of priority:

  • Relatives;

  • Caregivers

    who have been

    designated by a responsible family member;

  • Licensed

    child-welfare facilities; and

...urges UU congregations and individuals in the U.S. " make appropriate

representation to Congress and the Administration and, especially in

states with

INS children's detention centers, to investigate and

monitor the practices,

standards, and care at those facilities."

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