The UUA and the UCC Recommit to the Sanctuary Movement

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Boston, MA – The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) along with the United Church of Christ (UCC) are some of the first religious denominations to reaffirm their commitment to immigrant families facing deportation by declaring their support of the Sanctuary Movement.

The Rev. Peter Morales, president of the UUA, said, “Keeping immigrant families together is a moral issue. In response to our country’s broken immigration system, I encourage all Unitarian Universalist congregations to support the Sanctuary Movement and to consider providing sanctuary to immigrants facing deportation.”

The Sanctuary Movement, a coalition of faith partners from across the religious spectrum, has been reactivated due to the failure of the U.S. Congress and the Obama administration to act on comprehensive immigration reform or administrative action.

The UCC currently has 11 congregations and the Southwest Conference supporting the Sanctuary Movement with several of those congregations willing to open their doors and offer sanctuary to someone facing deportation.

Rev. Geoffrey Black, general minister and president of the UCC, said, “We are proud to be part of this growing movement. We support those congregations in the United Church of Christ who have discerned that now is the time to lift our moral voice in a more prophetic form, so that our decision makers might understand the dire situation of family separation that our undocumented brothers and sisters face on a daily basis. We continue to pray that President Obama might be on the right side of history in developing a deferred action program that creates relief from deportation for as many people as possible.”

Currently, 17 UU congregations support sanctuary. On October 21, First Unitarian Society of Denver, CO, welcomed Arturo Hernandez Garcia into sanctuary. He is the first person to claim sanctuary in Colorado.

Before entering into sanctuary at the congregation, Hernandez Garcia said, “I have lived in the US for fifteen years. My wife and two daughters need me here at home with them, where I belong. I have taught my two daughters to work hard, be faithful, and show kindness and compassion to others. I am doing this not only to stop my own deportation, but also to help raise awareness that there are thousands of others like me being deported every day.”

During the 1980s, many UUA and UCC congregations were active 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. Given the current crisis caused by our broken immigration system, and the failure of both Congress and the Administration to fairly and compassionately address the impact of this crisis on families, children and communities, there is a sense of urgency to act in the face of such disastrous inaction.

It is recognized that today many UCC and UUA congregations feel similarly compelled to engage in this witness. The UCC and UUA affirm the process of prayerful discernment, dialogue and commitment that leads UUA and UCC congregations to choose to provide sanctuary. For many UCC congregations, such a commitment is grounded in the call to “extend an extravagant welcome and radical hospitality and continue to minister and care for all who come to our doors.” (“A Call for A More Humane U.S. Immigration Policy,” General Synod 26)

In 2013, the UUA issued a statement of conscience called, “Immigration as a Moral Issue,” which encouraged congregations to “explore and implement ways to transform concern into action, including the possibility of providing sanctuary for undocumented immigrants at special risk.”

Often working together, the UUA and the UCC have been vocal in calling for comprehensive immigration reform and support for immigrant families. The UUA’s 2012 Justice General Assembly in Phoenix, AZ, included a mass demonstration by UUs at the infamous Sherriff Joe Arpaio’s Tent City detention center in which Rev. Geoffrey Black and other UCC Executive Ministers joined the rally. Morales himself has twice been arrested for acts of civil disobedience against anti-immigrant laws and the lack of government action to address the immigration problem.