The Immigrant Rapid Response hotline is up and running in the San Francisco Bay Area. We now have teams with hundreds of volunteers ready to converge whenever an ICE raid is taking place in our neighborhoods. The teams are trained to witness and record the event and ensure that the rights of immigrants are protected. Now, we need to make sure our neighbors in the immigrant community are aware of the hotline.
Help distribute the rapid response hotline information in UUSM’s own neighborhood. We will meet at UUSM on Saturday and spread out to canvass the neighborhood with posters and cards. For questions, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Please RSVP HERE.
MEET AT: Unitarian Universalists of San Mateo, 300 E. Santa Inez Avenue, San Mateo, CA 94401 @ 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 6th.
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As you might suspect, there was a reason for featuring Emma Lazarus and her poem, The New Colossus, as part of the American She-Poets series this a.m. … the reason being a reminder of our American ideals in the face an unreasonable ban, free-flowing hostilitities, and the fear vulnerable people have given the ramped-up deportation policies finding support and stride under the current Republican administration. Almost all immigrants to this country are refugees even if they are not formally declared so. Formally or informally they seek refuge from violence, poverty, joblessness, hunger and environmental degradation.
“Now ‘refugees’ are those of us who have been so unfortunate as to arrive in a new country without means and have to be helped by refugee committees …. We lost our home, which means the familiarity of daily life. We lost our occupation, which means the confidence that we are of some use in this world. We lost our language, which means the naturalness of reactions, the simplicity of gestures, the unaffected expression of feelings. . . . ” We Refugees, an essay by Hannah Arendt in the 1943 issue of Menorah
The lack of empathy and compassion for and the fear of and prejudice toward immigrants is not new in American history and, as better people than me have said, unless you are a Native American, you are an immigrant, no matter how far back your roots go in these United States. It is likely that your own progenitors felt the sting of prejudice, might have suffered greatly and even died at its hands.
Here I report on the programs and practices that are being implemented by our interfaith community with the help of a number of organizations including Faith In Action, which is integral to the design of a Rapid Response Program. My hope is that in reading this more people in our own community will become involved and that other communities that don’t have programs and collaborations will be inspired to create them.
The Peninsula Solidarity Network of clergy representing diverse faiths was originally initiated to discuss and address the shortage of housing and affordable rents throughout the San Francisco Peninsula and South Bay area and is now taking on another crisis: creating sanctuary andbuilding a Rapid Response Network to witness, accompany and advocate for immigrants facing deportation. On Wednesday, February 8th, it hosted a training by Faith In Action Bay Area. The training was on the Sanctuary Movement and The Rapid Response Network, a project of Faith In Action Bay Area, PICO and the Archdiocese of San Francisco in collaboration with Pangea Legal Services and California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance.
Please note:I do not speak for or represent the Peninsula Solidarity Network or its clergy and lay-leader members, Faith In Action or the Rapid Response Network, but I was a butterfly on the wall with the good fortune to listen in and report back to you. This is what I learned. Any mistakes or mistaken assumptions are my own. If you are clergy or a professional journalist interested in the Peninsula Solidarity Network, the Sanctuary Movement, and/or Rapid Response email email@example.com J.D.
While deportation is not a new problem, these efforts by the federal government are escalating and Faith In Action is working to bring our congregations together to foster the bigger scale of action and involvement that is necessary now . . . and we need everyone. Our job is to facilitate support among the races. Everyone has a role to play: diverse immigrant communities supporting one another and the greater community showing presence. Vulnerable ethnic and religious groups need special help and American citizens have responsibility to be present for victims and involved in this work.
Within the immigrant community congregations are the center for hope. Faith organizations can offer training to help families to defend themselves, to know their rights, and to get deportation defense through community campaigns, solidarity networks and for advocacy at local, state and federal levels.
Each city needs RAPID RESPONSE TEAMS of at least forty people. First responders verify raids, are moral and legal observers and connect families with legal services, social and economic services, advocacy and accompaniment services.
Victims of immigration raids can’t leave home or work to find sanctuary in a congregation. With rapid response, the congregation goes to the people.
In California, clergy and congregation members can also help by supporting the proposed California Values Act (SB 54) of California Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León. Here is the short link to info about SB 54: http://tinyurl.com/j6e6ayv
Donate to Faith In Action Bay Area, 1336 Arroyo Ave, San Carlos, CA 94070-3913 (510) 234-8983
OUR PENINSULA RESIDENTS ARE INVITED TO attend the Faith In Practicing Solidarity During Immigration Raids Training (Rapid Response Network: Witness, Accompany and Advocate) to be offered on February 12, 4 p.m. – 6 p.m. at the First Congregational Church, 225 Tilton Ave., San Mateo, CA (Parking on Catalpa). You will learn how to witness (be a legal observer), accompany (provide moral support) and advocate (prepare for opportunity to pass new protections). There will be a second training offered on February 28, 6:30 – 8:30pm, 2266 California St, San Francisco.
What follows is a short film (about 20 min.), which tells the history of immigration in the United States. If you are reading this feature from an email subscription, you’ll likely have to link through to watch the video.
Too many people are deported – or “returned” – many of them are long-term residents woven into the fabric of our communities and congregations, including our neighbors. Often this results in splitting up families with children who are U.S. citizens.
Time after time Congress has refused to address our broken immigration system. Donald Trump launched his campaign for president pledging to build a wall and deport immigrants. During his first two weeks in office he issued orders intended to begin implementing his vision for America. An order establishing a travel ban on Muslims from seven majority Muslim nations has had a chilling effect on nearly all foreign nationals living among us as friends, neighbors, classmates, coworkers or family in communities nationwide. Consequently, a New Sanctuary Movement is rapidly gaining momentum among people of faith and moral conscience.
Why get involved as a Faith Community?
Our shared religious ideals call us to affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of all people; to seek justice, equity, and compassion in human relations, and to create world community with peace, liberty and justice for all. We commit our values to action as we work together to transform ourselves while creating congruence between our ideals and our actions. Deportation of our neighbors and the breaking up of immigrant families in our communities are among the most compelling social justice issues of our time. Our congregations can make a difference. We can get involved in the New Sanctuary Movement by taking the National Sanctuary Pledge and becoming a Sanctuary Congregation, joining hundreds of others from all faith traditions across the country
What does it mean to be a Sanctuary Congregation?
Principally, it means helping prevent deportation of persons facing an order of deportation, on a case-by-case basis, one at a time, in concert with their legal representation. Participation varies from joining Networks of Protection and Rapid Response teams; Advocating for due process and policies; Accompanying Immigrant families and youth for protection and providing a safe haven. This latter role means hosting or otherwise supporting a person in your facility and possibly their family too, while the person is engaged in legal proceedings intended to prevent them from being deported. We expect the duration of a person’s stay in Sanctuary would be from three weeks to three months. As part of growing coalitions of congregations you would not be doing this alone.
Is a house of worship a safe place?
Historically, churches, schools and hospitals have been classified as “sensitive locations” under the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Sensitive Locations Policy. ICE has not entered any of those venues to take custody of a person facing an order of deportation. However, we should be aware that this could change as the current administration implements its plans. [ICE officials can make entry with a warrant. / J.D.]
How are candidates for Sanctuary vetted?
As a Sanctuary Congregation, you will have a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with one or more not-for-profit organizations providing legal services for immigrants in or around your area. That organization, in concert with a person’s lawyer, will decide that the person would be the right candidate for Sanctuary: (1) ICE would not likely consider them a priority for deportation; (2) they are a good candidate for prosecutorial discretion, winning a stay of removal or an order of supervision or some other form of legal relief from deportation; and (3) they would satisfy any other requirements specified in our MOU. Where a candidate meets the requirements, the organization presents the case to the Sanctuary Congregations’ rabbi, minister or Iman and a “Vetting Team.”
What are the risks?
During the last forty years, no congregation has been prosecuted for allowing undocumented people to find shelter in their Church; no person associated with a Church Sanctuary Program has been convicted for offering Sanctuary; and no Church’s tax-exempt status has been affected. In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., “There comes a time when a moral man [sic] can’t obey a law which his conscience tells him is unjust. And the important thing is that when he does that he willingly accepts the penalty – because if he refuses to accept the penalty he becomes reckless, and he becomes an anarchist.”
I stood in the office of a friend who happens to be Filipino-American and he said, “we need to have a protest along the El Camino Real. We did it in the Philippines – The People Power Revolution – and it was a success.”
My friend was referring to a revolt (some may remember) in the Philippines in 1986, a nonviolent protest that to took place largely along the stretch of Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA). This avenue is a highway around Manila and the main thoroughfare in Metro Manila, which passes through six capitol regions.
The protest was implemented from February 22–25, 1986, a revolt against violence, electorial fraud and President Marcos. It reportedly involved over two million Filipino civilians, as well as several political and military groups and included religious organizations too. (Do you remember the news features on the “kleptocrat” Imelda Marcos – then first lady – and all her shoes?)
The protest resulted in the ouster of Marcos from Malacañang Palace to Hawaii. It culminated in a free election and the installation of Corazon Aquino (the widow of the assassinated Benigno Aquino, Jr., a former Senator who stood in opposition to Marcos) as President of the Philippines. So, yes! This peaceful protest was a success … and an inspiration …
INAUGURATION DAY SIDEWALK PROTEST ALONG EL CAMINO REAL
Now we are not comparing the current situation in the United States with the violent and traumatic events that lead to the People Power Revolution initiated by our Filipino brothers and sisters. It did birth the idea though for our Inauguration Day Protest to be held on the 20th from noon to 1 p.m., the time of the inauguration.
El Camino Real (ECR) (Spanish for The Royal Road, also known as The King’s Highway), spans the historic 600-mile road connecting the twenty-one Spanish missions in California ), along with a number of sub-missions, four presidios, and three pueblos. It travels from the southern end San Diego area Mission, San Diego de Alcalá, to the trail’s northern terminus at Mission San Francisco Solano in Sonoma, just above San Francisco Bay. Relative to the EDSA and the greater length of El Camino Real, our effort is relatively modest spanning just the cities from San Jose to San Francisco.
The action call went out on December 31 when UUSM Minister Rev. Ben Meyers invited area residents and workers to stand in solidarity for peace, sustainability and social justice. “If you too are concerned about the rhetoric and proposed policies of the incoming administration,” Rev. Meyers said, “you are encouraged to come out and show that as a community we will stand our ground and fight for tolerance, decency, economic justice and democracy in our country.”
A site was set up – ecrprotest.blogspot.com – as an invitation/call to action. It details the event and some rules of behavior. There’s a link to the American Civil Liberties’ legal guidance for protest. The invitation is translated into Tagalog, Spanish, Chinese and Simple Chinese, respecting the diversity of our communities. It can be printed out as flyers to be distributed.
We’ve been gratified with the response: 13,000 visits to the ecrprotest.blogspot.com site as of this afternoon … Hence, we look forward to thousands of participants. If you live and/or work in on the Peninsula and relate to the mission, we hope you’ll join us.
This “Sidewalk Protest” is coordinated by the Unitarian Universalists in concert with Faith in Action and Suite Up! Action Network Mid-Peninsula-SF Bay Area.
“I left India more convinced than ever before that nonviolent resistance was the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom. It was a marvelous thing to see the amazing results of a nonviolent campaign. India won her independence, but without violence on the part of Indians. The aftermath of hatred and bitterness that usually follows a violent campaign was found nowhere in India. The way of acquiescence leads to moral and spiritual suicide. The way of violence leads to bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers. But the way of nonviolence leads to redemption and the creation of the beloved community”.The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. chapter 13, “Pilgrimage to Nonviolence”
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