by Susan Leslie, Director, UUA Office for Congregational Advocacy & Witness

If there was a sub-theme at General Assembly this year it was for immigrant justice and the need for comprehensive, just and humane, family-based immigration reform.

This year’s public witness event on June 26th was an interfaith rally called Standing on the Side of Love with Immigrant Families. It featured UUA President Rev. William Sinkford, Bishop John Wester, Chair of the Catholic Conference of Bishops Committee on Migration and Refugees (who along with the UUA has called for an end to the ICE raids), Bishop Carolyn Irish Tanner of the Episcopal Diocese of Utah, Cannon Rev. Dr. Pablo Ramos who is the Latino Missioner for the diocese and described what immigrant families are facing daily, and a moving personal testimony from Larry Love, the father of a Mormon family that is being separated because of the current immigration laws (the mother of three US citizen children is under deportation orders). The rally was hosted by Rev. Tom Goldsmith of First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City, a congregation with an active immigration task force and member of the New Sanctuary Movement. Members of First Unitarian’s choir and musicians provided wonderful music and energy for the event, including a heartfelt rendition of “Standing on the Side of Love” and “We Can Make a Difference.”

Rev. Sinkford led a pledge of commitment by UUs and others to stand on the side of love with immigrant families. New UUA President Rev. Peter Morales and presidential candidate Rev. Laurel Hallman joined him on stage. [Note: Newly elected UUA President Rev. Peter Morales will be attending an interfaith press conference and Capitol Hill lobby visit for immigration reform in Washington, DC on July 27th.]

The rally was attended by over 1,000 UUs (our largest ever!) who marched over from the convention center, along with many people from the community.

You can read about the event and watch a video of it on our website.

The event was also the first action by the newly UUA-initiated Standing on the Side of Love Campaign. See for more about the rally, the campaign, and local organizing in support of immigrants.

The witness was particularly timely because a new anti-immigrant law just went into effect in Utah on July 1st that authorizes all Utah law enforcement personnel to at as immigrant agents in cooperation with ICE (Immigrant Customs and Enforcement). The law is so controversial in Utah that legislators had to add an opt-out clause and the Police Chief of Salt Lake City has already announced that he will not have the SLC police force used as immigration enforcers. He has been joined by the Salt Lake County Sheriff and others.

In addition to the rally, hundreds attended a GA workshop on June 24th entitled Welcoming Our Neighbors: The Path to Immigration Reform. Rev. Alexia Salvatierra, a Lutheran minister and a national coordinator of the New Sanctuary Movement, gave a cogent analysis and plan for how to achieve reform. She was joined by Rev. Pablo Ramos (who also spoke at the rally), and Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray, the Minister of the UU Congregation of Phoenix AZ, whose congregation received the UUA Congregational Social Justice Bennett Award for their work for immigrant justice in a very polarized situation where Sheriff Joe Arpaio has gained national notoriety for his anti-immigrant practices.

More coverage and a video of the worksh0p can be found on our website.

As part of the UU University Social Justice Track – A People So Bold, Janice Marie Johnson of Community Church UU New York told the story of how her congregation decided to become a New Sanctuary Congregation and the work they have been doing to support immigrant families. They were part of the UU Social Justice Resource Fair (along with the UUA Office for Congregational Advocacy and Witness) to provide information on the New Sanctuary Movement and how UU congregations can participate. (We will be posting more info about this soon!)

There was also an “off the grid” meeting at GA with Rev. Alexia and UUA advocacy and witness staff for about 20 congregational immigrant justice leaders who strategized about ways UUs can make more of an impact and get more of our congregations involved. To get involved, please subscribe to the
UUA Immigration Newsletter and let me know if you want to be added to the immigrant justice leaders closed list.

Momentum is truly building for a path to citizenship for the twelve million people in this country caught by a broken system and UUs are helping lead the way.

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