Our mission statement calls us to educate, raise awareness, and engage in efforts aimed at changing immigration policies. We partner with other UU congregations, and other interfaith and civic engagement groups in the community. As the national debate on immigration reform continues, we believe it is crucial to be leaders in this debate, in the context of living our UU values.
The IJWG meets monthly to plan activities and stay informed on immigration-related issues. We meet at the church on the fourth Tuesday, from 6:30-8:30 pm in the Meditation Room. All are welcome to attend. We also host an information table in the Social Hall on Sunday mornings. The IJWG is actively involved in various immigration-related activities. These include:
- Participating in the monthly Interfaith Prayer Vigil at the West County Detention Facility in Richmond, where undocumented immigrants are held while awaiting deportation hearings. These vigils are held on first Saturdays, from 11:00 am to 12:00 noon, at 5555 Giant Highway in Richmond.
- Volunteering at DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) workshops to assist young Dreamers apply for deferred action from deportation, allowing them to obtain work permits and drivers licenses.
- Partnering with CCISCO (Contra Costa Interfaith Supporting Community Organization) on their Campaign for Citizenship for undocumented immigrants, as a step toward compassionate and comprehensive immigration reform.
For more information about the IJWG, please contact Natalie DaSilva.
Children at the Border
The crisis of unaccompanied, undocumented children at the border continues. Children from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala are fleeing extreme poverty and extreme violence. They are detained in less-than-appropriate or -adequate conditions at the border.
Several hundred of these children have arrived in the Bay Area in recent months to be placed with family members and sponsors. But court proceedings to hear asylum cases often deny the children due process, without adequate legal representation and with multiple children appearing before a judge simultaneously. Local advocacy groups that have provided support to undocumented immigrants in crisis are overwhelmed by the need, and are seeking support from the faith community.
Recognizing that in the 1980s people of faith stood in solidarity with thousands of displaced Central Americans, people of faith today have drafted “An Interfaith Covenant with Children on the Border,” to stand in solidarity with these children and their families with love, compassion, truth, and justice. Congregations of faith are signing this covenant and coming up with ideas to live out its call to “protect, defend, and advocate for Central American refugees.”
The covenant reminds us of our UU principles that affirm our interconnectedness with one another:
“These children are our children.
Their suffering is our suffering. Their longings, our longings.
Their dreams, our dreams.
And we commit to bear witness and to stand in solidarity.”
Standing on the Side of Love & Walking Toward Trouble
At the UUA General Assembly in Providence, Sister Simone Campbell (organizer of the “Nuns on the Bus”) delivered the Ware Lecture and invited us to “walk toward trouble” with those being oppressed by our unjust and inhumane immigration system. I had the great honor of meeting Sister Simone and hearing her speak recently at the Interfaith Worker Justice Conference in Chicago. Wow - I want to walk toward trouble with her!
Over the past two years, we have written about the many grave injustices of current U.S. immigration policies. Perhaps there are none so egregious as those involving the tens of thousands of unaccompanied children coming now from Central America to escape extreme poverty and extreme violence. This is truly a humani-tarian crisis. The children are being warehoused in the U.S., and are often feared and hated by U.S. citizens. The Obama administration wants to deport them as quickly as possible. The U.N. considers them refugees.
I will offer a poem by Sister Simone, which describes this dehumanization much more eloquently than I ever could:
|Dropped from the counter of globalization
in the midst of economic transactions,
these human coins, illegal tender
get swept up into the dust pan of
national identity and border security.
These small coins of labor fall through
the cracks of caring, ending up in
dank dark pens – smaller than pennies
in the global wealth, taken as too
small to matter, mere annoyances
or possible threat to a sovereign nation.
| These small coins are tossed into cages
of fifty, sixty jumbled together
on the floor, in corners, along barred walls.
They do not fit into ATMs. They will not
be received for deposit in the world economy.
They are spare change tossed on the counter
of globalization – and forgotten.
Please get involved to help bring about a more compassionate and just immigration system. Come to the Monthly Vigil in Support of Immigrant Detainees, on the first Saturday of every month, from 11:00 AM to 12:00 noon, at the West County Detention Facility, 5555 Giant Highway in Richmond.
Are you looking for ways to help the many refugees from Central America who are fleeing extreme violence and crushing poverty? We are witnessing a true human tragedy as refugees are seeking asylum in this country to escape extreme gang violence and poverty, primarily in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.
Here’s a way to help: West County Detention Facility (WCDF) in Richmond/Pinole now contains more than 300 detainees, many of whom are eligible for release to their families while they are awaiting their asylum hearings. A coalition composed of CIVIC, Centro Legal de La Raza, and Clergy and Laity United (Clue) has created a program to assist these detainees in connecting with their families after they have been released. (Typically, they are released with little or no money, the clothes on their backs, and nothing to eat since breakfast at the facility).
Immigration advocates have recently learned of problems caused by a sudden large increase in the number of ICE detainees at West County Detention Facility in Richmond – now up to more than 300. Apparently, many of these recent detainees are immigrants who came across the southern border seeking asylum from persecution at home.
Because they are seeking asylum, many of these detainees are eligible to be released on bond or even on their own recognizance. The problem is that ICE releases them in the middle of the night at West County Detention Facility with no money, no cell phone, etc. Their families are often located far away in other parts of the country, and they have no way to contact them. In addition, their possessions are stored at ICE local headquarters in San Francisco, which is only open certain hours.
Those of you who were at Justice GA in Phoenix in 2012 may remember being sung to, and singing, on the way to the buses taking us to the candlelight vigil outside Sheriff Joe Arpaio's shameful "Tent City." The hymn was Pat Humphries' "Keep on Moving Forward (Never Turning Back).”
Those of us committed to more just, compassionate, and humane immigration policies will indeed keep on moving forward in 2014. The Immigration Justice Working Group (IJWG) will continue its efforts.
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Immigration Justice News
County Jail Phones - Update
On August 12, several of us attended a hearing of the Contra Costa agency that is looking into the high cost of phone calls for inmates and detainees at the West County Detention Facility. Under the current contract with GlobalTel, which is currently up for renewal, phone calls cost $4 to $6 per minute. The sheriff's department justifies this by saying that the half a million dollars that is kicked back to the department annually funds inmate programs.
Farm Worker Reality Tour
FARM WORKER REALITY TOUR
Strawberry Harvesting Demonstration & FW Life Story Followed by Dialogue, Testimonials, & Dinner with Farmworkers at Migrant Labor Camp in Watsonville
Sunday, July 21, 2013: 3 - 9 PM
Limited to the first 25 who register. Children with parents welcome. The first 25 persons to register (pay) will be able to attend.
$30 per Person – Check Payable to “Human Agenda”. Send to Human
Agenda Treasurer, 2175 The Alameda, Suite 103, San Jose, CA 95126.
Proceeds go primarily to farm worker families hosting the tour.
At 3:00 PM in the surface parking lot at SJCC at the corner of Moorpark and Leigh Avenues. We will carpool to Watsonville.
Jeans, T-shirts, etc. (nothing flashy or ostentatious).
Dr. Ann Lopez, Professor and Author, The Farmworkers’ Journey
Richard Hobbs, Immigration Attorney & Executive Director, Human Agenda
Contact Cesar Juarez at email@example.com or 408-421-2895
Description: This tour will challenge participants to better understand the conditions of Mexican farmworkers in Northern California. We will drive to the Crystal Bay Farms Strawberry Field where Cristina Lazcano will talk about her life and jobs as strawberry picker and mother of seven. She will demonstrate how to harvest strawberries after which participants will have the opportunity to pick and purchase strawberries. Then we will drive to the Buena Vista Migrant Labor Camp near Watsonville where farmworkers will show their living quarters and give testimonies on their wages, working conditions, use of pesticides, and challenges their children have in receiving education. A farmworker meal is included in the cost. The tour leaders will share recent information on farmworkers including demographics, how globalization propels immigration, S.744 and the prospects for passing immigration reform, and the conditions of farmworkers on both sides of the border. For those who wish, Ann Lopez will sign copies of her book, The Farmworkers’ Journey, at the discounted rate of $15.
Campaign for Citizenship
Keep Our Families United!
Community Forums with Congressmen George Miller
Richmond and Concord - On June 8th, faith leaders from Contra Costa County will engage U.S. Congressman George Miller about the immigration reform bill currently making its way through Congress in two separate community forums. Join with DREAM Act students and other community leaders to discuss with congressman Millers office what a fair, inclusive and direct roadmap to citizenship for 11 million aspiring Americans would look like.
These community forums will give local clergy and members from several local congregations the opportunity to offer testimony and encourage Congressman Miller to publicly support a fair and direct path to citizenship. Faith leaders from the Contra Costa will speak about key milestones they would like to see on the path to citizenship including the ability to apply for protected status, family reunification, the ability for those who have reached the appropriate status to work, drive and travel, and for the application costs to be affordable to people of all incomes.
Saturday, June 8th
1st Forum - 9:00am - St. Marks Church
159 Harbour Way, Richmond
2nd Forum - 11:30am - Queen of All Saints Church
2390 Grant St., Concord
For more information, please contact Natalie DaSilva
Foro Comunitario con representante George Miller
Richmond y Concord - El día Sábado, 8 de Junio, lideres religiosos del condado de Contra Costa estarán con el Congresista George Miller en dos eventos presentando lo que esta pasando actualmente con lo que el senado planteo acerca de la Reforma Inmigratoria. Acompáñanos con los sonadores y otros lideres comunitarios para debatir con el Congresista Miller como un camino justo, incluyente y directo a la ciudadanía para los 11 millones de inmigrantes indocumentados puede ser posible.
Estos foros comunitarios le darán la oportunidad al clero y lideres de diversas congregaciones locales la oportunidad de dar su testimonio y comprometer al congresista Miller para que públicamente apoye un camino justo y directo para la ciudadanía. Lideres religiosos del condado de Contra Costa hablaran de los puntos claves que quisieran ver en una reforma inmigratoria incluyendo la habilidad de aplicar por un estatus de protección, la reunificación de las familias, la habilidad de tener un estatus apropiado para trabajar, manejar y viajar, y que la aplicación tenga un costo asequible para las personas de todos los ingresos.
Sábado, 8 de junio
1er Foro - 9:30am - Iglesia de San Marcos
159 Harbour Way, Richmond
2nd Foro- 11:30am - Iglesia la Reina de Todos los Santos,
2390 Grant St., Concord
Para información en español contacto Claudia Jimenez - 510-414-9025
Our Southern Border
I recently traveled to Tucson to see for myself what goes on along the border or the United States and Mexico. I spoke with people from both sides of the border: Mexican citizens, American citizens, migrants, deportees, dreamers. Some spoke English, some spoke Spanish, but everyone wanted a chance to make a better life for themselves and their families.
I spoke with migrants who were about to make the trip from Mexico to the United States in search of a better life. They understood that they were risking their life in the journey across the harsh desert, that they were at the mercy of the “coyote” guide who was escorting them, and that they probably would be caught by the US Border Patrol and deported. Still they are going, and will go again, and again, because they are desperately seeking a better life. As one migrant succinctly said: “It's very simple. You need workers, and we need work.”
I also spoke to three dreamers (Dario, Anna, and Jessica) who came to the United States on tourist visas before they were old enough to attend elementary school. They worked hard at school and earned very good grades. Their dream was and is to attend college, get a good job, and make a life for themselves here. But, because their tourist visa has expired, in Arizona they are not allowed to receive public scholarships because they are undocumented. They have to find other funding, and have established an organization called Scholarships A-Z to help dreamers find scholarships. After hearing their stories, I want to help dreamers find the means to attend college. It's very simple. We need educated people for our future, and Anna, Dario and Jessica need citizenship and a good job for their future.