About the Author
Lisa Swanson

Watch tomorrow’s hearing on state & local immigration enforcement & Arpaio

Tomorrow (Thursday the 2nd) at 10 AM EST, you can watch online as two Congressional House subcommittees hold a joint hearing on ” the Public Safety and Civil Rights Implications of State and Local Enforcement of Federal Immigration Laws,” which will address Sheriff Arpaio.

Witnesses will include UNC-Chapel Hill law professor Deborah Weissman, who co-authored The Policies and Politics of Local Immigration Enforcement Law, George Gascon, Chief of the Mesa, Arizona police department, Pheonix resident Julio Mora, who was harassed by Sheriff Arpaio’s deputies, and others.

The hearing will focus on general allegations of racial profiling in connection with 287(g) program, as well as specific allegations of unconstitutional immigration enforcement tactics by Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Maricopa County, Arizona.

To watch, go to http://judiciary.house.gov/hearings/calendar.html at 10 AM on Thursday the 2nd and click the second “Watch Video Webcast” box from the top. For back ground on 287(g) programs and Sheriff Arpaio, see:

For more information about tomorrow’s hearing, see:

California UU on immigration and white privilege

“While I always thought I shared common ground with other immigrants, I finally realize that a person of color might not see it that way.” –Allyson McDonald

A month ago, an opinion piece titled Why We Need Color Consciousness by California Unitarian Universalist Allyson McDonald was published in the Milpitas Post.

Somehow I missed seeing the email in my inbox about it until now. But I’m very glad I went back and took the time to read her article. McDonald, a white immigrant from Canada, lays out how being white has made her immigrant experience a fundamentally privileged one, as opposed to the experiences of many immigrants of color. I recommend taking a moment to check it out.

See: Why We Need Color Consciousness, Milpitas Post, Feb. 18, 2009.

Message from Amnesty International: End sexual violence against Native American women

This afternoon I got the following alert from Amnesty International. Please take a moment to look over the facts below and call your Senator. If you can’t do it today, then make a call tomorrow or Friday. Senators need to hear from as many people as possible on this important issue.


Native American and Alaska Native women face a 1 in 3 chance of being raped in their lifetime.
Call your Senators today to support the Tribal Law and Order Act.The numbers are shocking.

In our report, Maze of Injustice, we uncovered the staggering statistic that Native American and Native women are more than two and a half times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than women in the USA in general.

Thankfully, our insiders on Capitol Hill say the Senate is considering re-introducing the Tribal Law and Order Act, a bill that would help fix this broken system of justice.

That’s why we’ve made this week the national call-in week for women’s rights. Call your Senators today and ask them to support the Tribal Law and Order Act.

Our call-in page will give you phone numbers, detailed talking points and a sample script. If passed, the Tribal Law and Order Act would do two critical things:

  • Clarify jurisdiction between federal, state, tribal and local governments, and
  • Increase coordination between their law enforcement agencies for responding to violent crime against American Indians.

Non-Native men who rape Native American and Alaska Native women can often do so with impunity, because of a lack of tribal authority to prosecute non-Native people who commit crimes of sexual violence on tribal lands. Most perpetrators are never punished because of a complex maze of tribal, state and federal jurisdictions that is so confusing that officials are often not clear on who is responsible for responding. This maze of injustice is exactly what the Tribal Law and Order Act would help fix.

Pick up the phone now and call your Senators to support and cosponsor legislation for Native American and Alaska Native women after it is introduced in the Senate.

We promise it will take you less than two minutes. Our call-in page has everything you need, including phone numbers, talking points and even a sample script.Without your phone call the Tribal Law and Order Act may never see the light of day. Thank you for joining the hundreds of others who will call this week to support women’s rights.


Meredith Larson
Director, Stop Violence Against Women Campaign
Amnesty International, USA

Take Action

SUCCESS! Department of Justice launches investigation of Sheriff Joe Arpaio

If you signed the America’s Voice petition . . . if you marched in Phoenix . . . if you took a moment to learn about the issue, ask what you could do, or say a prayer . . . then you are responsible in part for the victory related in the press release below from the National Day Laborer Organizing Network. Thank you for your heart, and your voice, and your hard work.

¡Sí se puede!

PRESS RELEASE: DOJ Launches Investigation of Sheriff Joe Arpaio: Advocates Call for Immediate Termination of 287g Contract with DHS

Press Conference on Capitol Hill, 1 pm, March 11.
Contact: Chris Newman, 323-717-5310, newman@ndlon.org
Date: March 10, 2009

On March 10, Acting Assistant Attorney General Loretta King sent a letter to Sheriff Joe Arpaio announcing a Department of Justice investigation of alleged “discriminatory police practices and unconstitutional searches and seizures conducted by the MCSO,” among other alleged violations of federal law. A copy of the letter is available here. The formal investigation follows a request by Congressman Conyers that the DOJ take action to respond to myriad complaints of racial profiling in Maricopa Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon first requested a DOJ investigation nearly a year ago. And on February 28, over 5,000 people marched four miles through Phoenix to ask the the federal government to immediately terminate its 287g(g) contract with Joe Arpaio.

On March 11, at 1 pm, advocates from across the country and civil rights leaders will join elected officials, including Congressman Conyers and Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, to discuss the investigation in a press conference on Capitol Hill.

“We are very hopeful a Department of Justice investigation will vindicate the rights of people who have been terrorized by Sheriff Arpaio,” said Salvador Reza of the PUENTE movement in Phoenix, AZ. “We also hope the Obama administration will immediately terminate the US government’s 287(g) contract with Maricopa County while the judicial process takes its course.”

“The federal government has the obligation to reform immigration laws and to uphold the Constitution,” said Pablo Alvarado, director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network. “Its failure to act has resulted in an emerging civil and human rights crisis.”

To learn more about Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s abuses of the 287(g) program, see NDLON’s Video Timeline of Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Abuses.

Pelosi calls for end to inhumane raids

Representative Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL) is conducting a national tour with the theme “Family Unity” to document the harm caused to our communities by the absence of comprehensive immigration reform. Gutierrez is attending community meetings, prayer vigils and town halls across the country for thousands of U.S. citizens whose families have been or risk being torn apart by a broken immigration system.

On Saturday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi attended one of the Family Unity events at a church in San Francisco. She joined hundreds of families to demand an end to inhumane immigration raids and deportations that separate parents from children. “Taking parents from their children . . . . that’s un-American,” she said.

Read coverage of the event and Pelosi’s comments at SFGate.com – Pelosi: End raids splitting immigrant families

Learn more about the Family Unity tour, follow them on Twitter, and check for events near you.

On a related note, though not part of the tour, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) spoke out against raids in his article Toward Humane Immigration Enforcement last Friday.

Thousands march against Arpaio in Phoenix, Arizona

On Saturday the 28th of February, community members of Phoenix, Arizona, and allies came together in a peaceful march to hold Sheriff Arpaio accountable for his maltreatment of immigrants. Estimates place the crowd between 3,000 and 5,000.

Forty members of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Phoenix, including Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray, and about eight members of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson participated in the rally.

See coverage of the rally at Thousands March Against Arpaio in Arizona. Pictures from the rally taken by UU Craig McComb are below.

From top:
UU Church of Tucson (UUCT) banner, held by Craig McComb and Leila Pine.
UU Church of Phoenix banner held by members
Members of UU Church of Pheonix marching against Sheriff Arpaio

For more information about Sheriff Arpaio, see:

UUA.org-Honor thy Neighbor

UUA Action Page: 287(g) and Sheriff Arpaio

and Inspired Faith, Effective Action- Sign the Petition to Investigate Sheriff Arpaio

The Visitor

The fourth in a series of blog posts this week inspired by movies highlighted in Sunday’s Oscars Awards ceremony. Today, Lisa Swanson, Legislative Assistant for Economic and Racial Justice, blogs about The Visitor, which received an Oscar nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role.

* * * * *

Jail Officer: He’s been removed.

Prof. Walter Vale: Removed to where?

JO: Deported.

Vale: Deported? When?

JO: He was deported this morning.

Vale: How can that be? No, he – Um, sir, is there any way that I could contact him?

JO: I don’t think so.

Vale: You don’t think so? What kind of an answer is that?

JO: I’m sorry, sir. That’s all the information that I have. Now, please step away from the window. You can contact I.C.E. if you have any further questions. The number’s on the wall. Sir? Step away from the window, please. Sir. For the last time, step away… from the window.

Vale: You can’t just take people away like that. Do you hear me? He was a good man, a good person. It’s not fair! We are not just helpless children! He had a life! Do you hear me? I mean, do YOU hear ME? What’s the matter with you?

The Visitor, 2007. Photo of Richard Jenkins, who plays Professor Walter Vale, and Haaz Sleiman, who plays Tarek Khalil, taken by icmags, Creative Commons.

Over the winter holiday I bought a used copy of The Visitor and watched it with my parents. After having heard colleagues talk about the film for several months, it was interesting to finally see it.

The movie is about a college professor, Walter Vale, who finds a young couple squatting in his New York City apartment. Just as Walter’s friendship with Tarek and Zainab is growing, Tarek is arrested for jumping a metro turnstile, and then detained for being undocumented.

Distressed, Tarek’s mother arrives in the city to be near her son, in spite of the fact that she can’t go to see him without putting herself in danger of being detained as well. Walter realizes that, as a citizen, he is the only person close to Tarek who is able to visit him safely. As he goes to see Tarek in the detention center over the next few weeks, his attachment to Tarek and his mother grows stronger–but so does the viewer’s certainty that U.S. immigration policy will soon bring those relationships to an end.

As serious as the movie was, it was refreshing to see a movie that featured undocumented immigrants. Too often immigration issues are relegated to documentaries, which, in spite of being excellent, don’t have a very wide appeal for mainstream audiences. That makes The Visitor an extremely valuable tool for introducing the issue of immigrant rights and immigration reform to folks who might not be tuned into the issue, but enjoy a good film.

The story itself was well-acted and visually lovely. Best of all, the film’s makers are aware that the story of detainment and deportation isn’t just fodder for a good drama, it’s also a social justice issue. They’ve put together a good website – http://takepart.com/thevisitor/ – which offers a discussion guide, information about supporting detainees, and information about relevant legislation.

Sign petition to hold Sheriff Arpaio accountable before this Saturday’s rally

Community members of Phoenix, Arizona, and allies across the country are speaking out to hold local Sheriff Joe Arpaio accountable for racial profiling and mistreatment of immigrants. Watch the video below for more information about Sheriff Joe, and then sign the petition for a federal investigation. Below the video, learn more about how UUs have responded and what you can do.

SIGN THE PETITION – www.SheriffJoeMustGo.com

Find more ways to support Phoenix and get involved in your own community by visiting the 287(g)/Arpaio Action Page.

How Unitarian Universalists have been involved . . . .

  • Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray of Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Phoenix wrote a Call to Action inviting UUs in Phoenix and across the country to support the campaign in Phoenix and find ways to get involved in their own communities.
  • More than one hundred and ten UUs (and probably many more we don’t know about) signed the petition for a federal investigation.
  • The Washington Office published a front page article on UUA.org called, Honor Thy Neighbor: Speak Out Against Sheriff Arpaio and 287(g) Agreements, which describes Sheriff Arpaio’s abuse of his authority and what people can do to support communities speaking out in Phoenix.
  • Five Arizona UU ministers, including Rev. Diane Dowgiert of Tucson, Rev. Dr. Walter F. Wieder, lay minister Thomas A. Thode, Pacific Southwest District Executive Rev. Dr. Ken Brown, and Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray signed a letter to Napolitano calling for the rescindment of the 287(g) agreement that empowers Arpaio. The Social Action Committee of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Phoenix, the Social Action Committee of Arlington Street Church in Boston, and the Latin America Taskforce Network of River Road Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Bethesda, Maryland, also signed.
  • UU blogger David Neiwert posted an alert on his blog Orcinus as did the Unitarian Universalist Peace Ministry Network.
  • Many Arizona UUs and others plan to participate in the rally to hold Sheriff Arpaio accountable in Phoenix this Saturday. If traveling to Phoenix from outside of Phoenix, email George Paul at gpauk [at] earthlink [dot] net to connect with area UUs. If you attend, please share your pictures and stories with us!
  • This is hardly an exhaustive list. If your congregation has done something to stand in solidarity with Phoenix that you don’t see on this list, please let us know so we can add it by sending an email to la_racialjustice [at] uua [dot] org.

The first immigration raid of the Obama administration

Immigration raids are ineffective: . . . immigration raids . . . have placed all the burdens of a broken system onto immigrant families.” — from the Obama-Biden Campaign website

Yesterday in Bellingham, Washington, the first immigration raid of the Obama administration took place at an engine remanufacturing company. 28 persons–about one third of the company’s entire workforce–were arrested, with three women later released on humanitarian grounds (probably related to having children).

It would be a mixed metaphor to say that my heart fell–like combining “my face fell” with “my heart was heavy”–but that’s exactly how I felt when I saw the headline. It has been painful to see comprehensive immigration reform take a backseat to other issues lately. Fixing health care, the economy, the environment, and education are extremely important. But as long we can’t be passing comprehensive immigration reform, we should abstain in the meantime from raids that persecute hard workers whose sole crime is trying to secure a better life for their family.

Please call the White House at 202-456-1414 and tell President Barack Obama:

  • The raid in Washington state is unacceptable, and hurts all of our communities.
  • If you identify as a UU and feel comfortable using this language, we suggest saying: “I am a Unitarian Universalist–a person of faith/conscience–and my religious/ethical calling tells me to affirm the inherent worth and dignity of all people.”
  • The Unitarian Universalist Association passed an Action of Immediate Witness in 2007 calling for a moratorium on raids.
  • Obama must stop unjust raids, and we must pass humane comprehensive immigration reform.

For news coverage of the raid, see:

"What Would You Do?" explores racism against day laborers

In January, ABC News ran an episode of What Would You Do? that explored racism against Spanish-speaking day laborers.

What Would You Do? explores ethics by secretly filming bystanders’ reactions to staged incidents of behavior such as shoplifting and sexual harassment. The Confronting Racism episode that aired on January 7 examined how customers reacted when a deli worker–a paid actor–refused to serve two Latino day laborers–also paid actors. The (pretend) deli worker referred to the (pretend) day laborers as “illegal” and made a number of racially and ethnically charged remarks, such as, “We don’t speak Mexican here,” in front of (not pretend!) customers.

Over two days, eighty-eight people came into the store while What Would You Do? ran its experiment. Of that number, forty-nine chose not to get involved in the situation.

Nine customers sided with the deli worker–one even offered to remove the day laborers from the store himself. That man later changed his mind after watching from the sidelines as the experiment repeated itself.

On the other end of the spectrum, thirty individuals stood up and spoke out against the deli worker’s racist actions. Some offered to buy the day laborers’ meals, and others asked to speak to the deli worker’s manager. Several vowed not to return to the store.

The fifteen minute video is a powerful and moving conversation starter for how people of faith can honor the inherent worth and dignity of immigrants. For me, it drove home the point that although our opinions about policy and laws are important, when we interact with one another, our faith calls us to regard each other first and foremost as fellow human beings.

As the show’s host John Quinoñes said,

“It’s a highly charged, volatile subject with emotions running high on both sides over legal and illegal immigrants and whether they have a right to be here. But when it comes to something as simple as being served a cup of coffee, why should any of that matter?”

Check it out: view What Would You Do?: Confronting Racism in America.