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Summary of UUA Statements on Sanctuary and Immigration Reform

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 Board Resolution established a Unitarian Universalist Sanctuary Fund to support individuals seeking sanctuary and to aid churches providing sanctuary.

  • 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 refugees 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 Resolution)
  • The 1984 General Assembly "...urge[d] Unitarian Universalists to support actively those Unitarian Universalist societies and other religious communities which offer sanctuary to El Salvadoran and other Central American refugees." (Concerning Central American Refugees, 1984 Action General Resolution)
  • The 1985 General Assembly, recognizing that some Unitarian Universalist congregations "...as 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; and...to 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 for 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 undocumented persons in this country" (A Call to Conscious, Humane Treatment of Immigrants, 1995 Resolution of Immediate Witness).

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 an Action of Immediate Witness to Support Immigrant Families—Stop the ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) Raids that calls for an immediate moratorium of all inhumane raids and resulting deportations.

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 relations...Unitarian 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 citizenship."

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

"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 urgently 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 world."

"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 which 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 agriculture.
  • 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 to 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 parents 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. "...to 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."

    For more information contact socialjustice @ uua.org.

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    Last updated on Tuesday, October 11, 2011.

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