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5 Ways UUSC Had an Impact in 2021

As we approach the end of a challenging year, we reflect on some of the ways our advocates have worked to advance human rights around the world.

December 22, 2021

Let’s face it: 2021 was a hard year coming on the heels of an even harder year. Many of us felt exhausted as we emerged from the intersecting crises of 2020—racial injustice, climate destruction, a global pandemic, a ban on asylum, and new threats to democracy. We entered 2021 hoping it would bring change. But in so many ways, it only multiplied the challenges we face: 

  • One month into the new year, a military junta took power in Burma through a ruthless coup
  • Despite promising to restore asylum, the Biden administration in fact preserved or expanded many of Trump’s most vicious anti-immigrant policies.
  • Rich countries—who have the means to immunize the world—failed to share this vaccine technology equitably; as a result, new variants of COVID-19 emerged and ravaged the globe. 
  • Global climate negotiations, while yielding much sonorous rhetoric, brought few solid commitments—at least not from the global leaders with the most power and obligation to save the planet from climate catastrophe. 

In short, the problems of 2020 did not end with the new year or the new president. Instead, they followed us right into January and after. Why? Because these problems aren’t just the result of one individual or set of circumstances. They are structural. They are rooted in the way our global society is currently designed and run. 

That’s why, at UUSC, we aren’t just trying to change one circumstance at a time. We are working to change systems. UUSC Director of Partner Support and Grantmaking Michael Kourabas already laid out some of the ways we supported our partners this past year to make lasting systems change around the globe. Today, we round out the story by highlighting how our UUSC members and action-takers have done their part as well to effect change. 

Here are five highlights from the year:

  • Changing the immigration system: (1) More than 1,500 UUSC members wrote to the White House in 2021 to urge them to end the Title 42 program—along with other anti-immigrant policies that bar asylum-seekers from obtaining safety from persecution. (2) Nearly 1,000 UUSC members and supporters took action to reverse the expansion of immigration detention, sending a clear message to the U.S. government that people belong in communities, not cages—especially during a pandemic! (3) More than 700 UUSC members wrote to their representatives in Congress demanding a fair path to citizenship for immigrants in the United States, a disproportionate share of whom have worked in frontline industries during the pandemic to keep others safe.
  • Changing the climate system: UUSC activists joined our partners Honor the Earth to resist the Line 3 pipeline extension—a harmful fossil fuel project that threatens to transport hundreds of thousands of barrels a day of planet-warming oil across treaty-protected Native lands. While UUSC staff supported our partners on the ground, nearly 2,000 of our members and supporters wrote to President Biden to urge him to use his executive authority to stop this destructive project from going forward. 
  • Changing the international justice system: As the Burmese military seized power in a bloody coup, turning their guns on their own citizens, UUSC advocates spoke out. More than 1,500 of them called for the U.S. government to take a long-overdue step to hold the Burmese military accountable: namely, to finally acknowledge that the military committed a genocide in 2017 against the Rohingya ethnic minority, and to support the international effort to seek justice for this crime.

This work to change systems cannot be finished in a year, whether 2021 or any other. It is the work of many lifetimes. But over the past year, UUSC members have shown once again that they are willing collaborators in the task. The years to come will bring still further challenges, but UUSC advocates will continue to lend their time, talents, and voices to the work that needs doing.

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