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 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.

Ending ICE Raids

The call for a moratorium on ICE raids is gaining momentum! This past Sunday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined hundreds of families Saturday evening at a church in San Francisco’s Mission District demanding an end to the immigration raids and deportations that separate parents from children across the United States. (See Pelosi Calls for an End to Inhumane Raids.)

I’m proud to say that the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations was the first religious denomination to call for an end to the raids and deportations that are tearing families apart causing fear and repression in immigrant communities and sorrow and disruption in all communities where school friends are losing parents, businesses are losing workers, and anti-immigrant sentiment is bolstered.

The UUA joined the New Sanctuary Movement in 2007 and passed an Action of Immediate Witness that year to end the raids. Since then the Catholic Conference of Bishops has called for a moratorium on the raids as well. Two coalitions that the UUA works with, Interfaith Worker Justice and Welcoming Massaschusetts, have also called for an end to the raids and unjust deportations.

Congregations wishing to take this stand can sign the New Sanctuary Movement Pledge.

(Please let me know that you did by writing to — so far 12 congregations have done so). MA congregations can also do so at the Welcoming MA site. Soon, there will be a Welcoming America site that will include CO, GA, ID, MA, NB, NC, NY and TN and other states. The launching conference is in April.

For the first time in a long time, it’s looking like a humane and just policy toward immigrants has a likelihood of passing. See our website for more information about the UUA’s advocacy efforts for just immigration reform.

Note: In May, the Action of the Month will be on Immigration and this year’s Public Witness at General Assembly in Salt Lake City will be immigrant rights.

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,
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 – 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: 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 – – 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.


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 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:

Recovery and Reinvestment Act: Where the Money Is Going

President Obama signed the $787 Billion Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law earlier this week. The law marks a monumental shift in how we choose to allocate our resources. We saw the Bush administration pass emergency spending measures to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghansitan time and time again. Then, in the face of the economic crisis, President Bush chose to bailout banks, financial institutions, and insurers. One month into the Obama Administration, his first emergency supplemental will save our schools, environment, and infrastructure, things that benefit every American. Here we take a look at how the bill impacts the UUA’s Legislative Objectives for the 111th Congress. While it advanced many of our objectives, it must be noted that on some issues (immigration and reproductive health), we took some steps backwards. But on the whole, given our objectives, this law is cause for celebration!

Environmental Justice

In 2007, both the Green Jobs Act and the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant were made law, but the necessary funding was not appropriated. Times have quickly changed and we see an unprecedented commitment towards green jobs and energy efficiency. The Economic Recovery bill invests $500 million in the Green Jobs Act, an increase of 400% of the original allocation. The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant is getting $3.2 billion, an increase of over 50%. And the Weatherization Assistance Program is getting $5 billion. These investments will create green jobs, creating employment opportunities for unemployed and under-employed workers, as well as reduce the energy costs of low-income families.


Peacemaking means creating safe places for children everywhere – including the United States.

$54 billion in state fiscal relief to prevent cuts in state aid to school districts, with up to $10 billion for school repair will allow children in the US to learn and grow in healthy and comfortable environments.

Gulf Coast Recovery

$375 million is going to the Army Corps of Engineers to strengthen Mississippi River levees.
$500,000 is going to create an ombudsman for FEMA to arbitrate Rita and Katrina related damages
$100,000 is going to support volunteer efforts for Gulf Coast Recovery through Dept of Labor (Americorps)

Violence Against Womens

The Economic Recovery bill includes $325 million in critical funding for the Violence Against Women Act and the Victims of Crime Act. This money will provide states with grants for doing work to combat domestic violence and help fund transitional housing for survivors of violence. $100 million of this money dedicated to the Victims of Crime Act will create and sustain thousands of jobs for victim advocates and specialized law enforcement officers.

Reproductive Health

However, funding that would have expanded Medicaid coverage to allow more women and families to obtain contraception and family planning services was one of the first things to be cut from the original stimulus package. Women living in poverty are four times more likely to have an unintended pregnancy and five times more likely to have an unintended birth than women who live above the poverty line. The family planning funding in the stimulus plan would have increased the reproductive freedom of thousands of women and saved money on health services due to the consequences of unintended pregnancy in the long run. (From the Claremont Port Side magazine). $87 billion over the course of two years was provided that will protect people who are currently eligible to receive family planning services through Medicaid comprehensive coverage.


$720 million is going towards improving security at the border and ports of entry. A significant proportion of that money is going towards the continued construction on the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. This wall is opposed by a broad coalition of immigration activists, environmentalists, ranchers and other property owners, and local governments. Not only does it increase misery and risk of death for undocumented workers, but also for endangered wildlife. The wall should be torn down, not further funded.

For more information on the Recovery and Reinvestment Act and its impact, see the White House’s new website devoted to providing full transparency on the recovery process: