A Valentine’s Message to Those Transforming Hearts, Minds, and Lives

This Valentine’s week, we’re sending love and solidarity to all our tireless grassroots partners who work to  build safer, more just, and welcoming communities for all.

Check out the reflections from our staff below, on some of our incredible Love Resists partners. These organizations are on the frontlines every day, challenging domestic policies that harm their communities and the criminalization of people on the basis of their identity. Sign and send  Valentine’s Day notes to show your love and appreciation for their critical work.

Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative

From: Phil Hamilton, Program Leader for Economic Justice

The Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative (MuslimARC) has reached more than 10,000 people in just four years with its mission to provide education and resources to advance racial justice. This Detroit-based team is tackling racism, xenophobia, and Islamophobia through strategic and timely approaches like narrative shifting, bystander intervention training, and coalition building.

Following the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va. last August, MuslimARC released this statement, which captures the spirit and depth of their work:

“Until we acknowledge and understand the history of White Supremacy … we will not be able to dismantle effectively structural oppression or to address the root causes of hate and violence in this country… We must consider ourselves as active participants in this historical moment, not just passive witnesses.”

It’s a constant inspiration to learn from and work with this team who’s making tangible progress in dismantling individual and institutional racism, addressing social disparities, and amplifying the voices of those who are marginalized in the discourse on Islam.

Send a Valentine to MuslimARC.

Queer Detainee Empowerment Project

From: Shelly Koo, Associate for Online Content

Queer Detainee Empowerment Project (QDEP) advocates against the increasingly hostile and discriminatory treatment of LGBTQI detainees in immigration detention and supports queer immigrants in and outside of detention. The impact and breadth of this amazing group’s work is well illustrated in the experience of Ali* Dawodu:

Ali knew the difficulty of being a gay man in Nigeria. Despite the risks, he created an underground LGBTQI support network. When the network was discovered, Ali was attacked and his partner murdered in front of him. Devastated and afraid for his life, Ali fled to the United States to seek asylum. U.S. officials attempted to charge him with visa fraud, and he was held at a Rikers Island detention facility for six months, awaiting an asylum hearing.

During the six months Ali was in detention, QDEP visited him every two weeks and connected with him through their pen pal program. They also made regular calls to Rikers to speed up his asylum hearing. With QDEP’s help, Ali was released and granted asylum status. QDEP placed him in stable housing with a host home and is providing him financial support during his first three months out of detention as he trains to become a carpenter. Ali now attends QDEP’s weekly member meetings, which alternate between leadership development, film screenings, game nights, and support groups — and always include a hot meal.

*For confidentiality purposes, Ali’s name has been changed.

In line with UUSC’s values and eye-to-eye partnership model, QDEP is led by and for the communities it serves. Members of their staff and volunteer networks have experienced detention themselves.

Send a Valentine to Queer Detainee Empowerment Project.

UndocuBlack Network

From: Josh Leach, Associate for Programs, Research, and Advocacy

The UndocuBlack Network (UBN) is a growing community of current and former undocumented Black people who share a vision of inclusive immigrant rights and racial justice movements. They advocate for the rights of Black undocumented individuals and provide healing spaces and kinship to those with intersecting identities.

Their voices have been indispensable in ongoing advocacy for a clean Dream Act, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) recipients, and common-sense immigration policy. UBN is breaking down policy complexities to help people understand how to exercise their rights, and offering meaningful ways for people to speak out for their values and immigrant community members.

It’s been my honor to attend activist events organized by this incredible organization, including a December press conference held in front of the U.S. Capitol as part of a Black-AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islander) Immigrant Day of Action.

The conference featured four members of Congress and a number of directly impacted activists. All spoke to the urgent need to pass a clean Dream Act and a TPS solution – and to do so without measures that harm other immigrant community members..

“We will not forget the original dreamers: our parents, our grandparents,” said Denea Joseph, a UBN leader. “We will not be complicit.”

UBN keenly understands the needs of its community and invests energy to address them. UUSC had the privilege of directly supporting UBN’s guide for mental health professionals who work with undocumented Black immigrants. This tool is one piece of UBN’s larger initiative, acting on the urgent need for awareness around and access to mental health services for communities facing increased targeting, criminalization and deportations in this moment.

Send a Valentine to UndocuBlack Network.

Love Resists Deportation on the Capitol Steps

On Wednesday, December 6, I joined more than 180 people who were arrested on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, in what organizers reported to be the single largest immigrant-led act of civil disobedience of the Trump era. United We Dream, CASA in Action, and the Center for Community Change organized us to came to Washington to demand a clean Dream Act and permanent protections for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, sacrificing a bit of our freedom to halt a xenophobic agenda that threatens the freedom of millions. Together, we told Congress that the pending loss of status for 59,000 Haitian TPS holders and 700,000 Dreamers is an emergency and that the time to act is now, before the December 22 spending bill deadline.

“We will not forget the original dreamers: our parents, our grandparents,” said Denea Joseph, a leader with UndocuBlack. “We will not be complicit.”

On behalf of UUSC and Love Resists, I was honored to join this action, which included Dreamers, labor leaders, immigrant activists, educators, and faith leaders of all traditions. Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL) and Judy Chu (D-CA), two current members of Congress and long-standing advocates for immigrant rights were arrested alongside us. Cheering us on were thousands of Dreamers and supporters, chanting encouraging words to remind us: We believe that we will win!

Activists gather on the steps of the Capitol in protest of congressional inaction on TPS and the Dream Act.

An honor to be arrested with you

On December 5, the day before the action, UUSC’s partners the UndocuBlack Network and the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC), an ally organization, held a joint press conference in front of the Capitol as part of their Black-AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islander) Immigrant Day of Action. The inspiring conference featured four members of Congress and directly impacted activists. All spoke to the urgent need to pass a clean Dream Act and a TPS solution – and, in particular, to ensure that neither comes at the expense of other immigrants. “We will not forget the original dreamers: our parents, our grandparents,” said Denea Joseph, a leader with UndocuBlack. “We will not be complicit.”

Their example and that of many others helped me to find my courage the next day. As a first-time participant in civil disobedience, I felt no small amount of trepidation, but I was  inspired by the Dreamers who I know have risked far more in other acts of peaceful protest and found enormous strength in the people around me. I was in the company of veteran leaders from across the immigrant rights movement. In the pen next to mine was Gustavo Torres, the executive director of CASA de Maryland, the largest immigrant rights group in the state and an important figure for years in the campaign for immigration reform. Becky Belcore from NAKASEC, one of the lead organizers of the 22-day Dream Action Vigil that Love Resists joined in September, was there as well. Shaking hands across the metal traffic barrier, I told Becky it was an honor to be arrested with her.

“We see you, we love you”

A particularly unforgettable moment from Wednesday’s action came as we – the more than 180 of us arrested – were being led away by the police. An organizer from United We Dream leaned out of the crowd and called to us. “Thank you for sacrificing yourself for our rights. We see you, we love you, we see you, we love you.

These words moved me more than I can say, especially in that moment. At the same time, I realized that I was not really worthy of them—my detainment was only for about two hours. And while I had to return to a police station the next day to submit my fingerprints and a pay cash fine, I was safe and on a train back home to Boston the same day.

Between the minimal freedom that I parted with, and the freedom that is taken from the thousands of people held in immigration detention, or who are deported from their loved ones, there is no real comparison. To contemplate the risks that so many others have taken to travel across borders, to live and work without papers, to seek asylum from persecution, is to understand that my own ‘sacrifice’ weighs very lightly in the balance.

Activists await arrest.

We cannot continue to deny Dreamers and TPS holders this opportunity. It is their futures, in some case their existence itself, that are on the line. Staring up at the Capitol Dome from the steps where we sat, a line from Yeats came back to me: Tread softly, because you tread on my dreams.

As the next few weeks unfold, members of Congress may be tempted to waiver in their support for our immigrant communities. They may ask whether the Dream Act cannot wait until another time, or whether it really needs to be “clean” (i.e., with no anti-immigrant riders). This is because they are seeing through the eyes of privilege, with the myopia of power. As politicians who make many legislative decisions, they can afford to accept “compromises” and delays. But this process has a cost and we must recommit ourselves to supporting communities and individuals who would be directly and irreparably harmed by this inaction.

In the coming days, I invite others to join me in reflecting on this injustice, and to ask if we cannot perhaps give a little bit more for a clean Dream Act than we already have. When every hour is threatened for some of us, we all can devote a few minutes to writing to our local paper. When some of us are being silenced, we must all raise our voices to our legislators to defend our shared community. Let us dare to give more for freedom, and ensure that all of us have the chance to celebrate that right and live without fear.