The U.S. Has A Moral Responsibility to Support Refugees

UPDATE: On Wednesday, September 27, 2017 the White House officially announced to Congress that it will set the refugee admissions cap to a historic low of only 45,000 in FY2018. In response, UUSC calls on Congress to do everything in its power to raise the cap to at least 75,000. The administration’s efforts to shut the door on refugees as part of its xenophobic political agenda do not diminish the moral responsibility of the United States to provide refuge for those fleeing violence and persecution. We continue to stand with refugees, their families, and their communities and will continue to fight for their rights.

UUSC condemns the White House’s threats to cut the refugee admissions quota to a historic low of less than 50,000 and urges the administration to institute a refugee admissions quota of no less than 75,000 in FY2018. At a time when the world is in the midst of the largest global migration crisis on record, any decision to reduce the refugee admissions cap would be an affront to the moral responsibility of the United States to provide a safe-haven for those fleeing violence and insecurity.

Lowering the admissions level is not factually grounded and represents yet another example of the Trump administration’s attacks on refugee and immigrant communities that include the Muslim ban, supporting the RAISE Act, and the decisions to end the Central American Minors (CAM) and the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programs. Despite what the administration claims, these attacks on refugee and immigrant communities do not promote national security or the economy. They are only designed to further the Administration’s nativist political agenda. As recent leaks have revealed, the administration appears to recognize that there is no justification for reducing the quota and has even gone so far as to actively suppress evidence about the contributions refugees make to our economy in order to justify their plans to reduce refugee admissions.

It is also important to note that news of the administration’s potential cuts to the refugee quota came the same week that the Supreme Court rejected part of a Ninth Circuit decision temporarily halting Trump’s executive order commonly called the “Muslim ban.” This ruling means that refugees will no longer be protected from the ban, even if they have a preexisting agreement with a resettlement agency. While the lower court ruling regarding extended family members still applies, the Supreme Court will hear arguments on the Muslim ban on October 10. In response, UUSC has signed onto an amicus brief calling on the Supreme Court to affirm the previous holdings of the Ninth and Fourth Circuits and block the ban from being enforced.

In recognition of the pattern of attacks on refugee and immigrant communities coming from the White House, it is critical that we take action in solidarity with refugees and immigrants. We encourage you to join us in supporting #NoMuslimBanEver, a national month action of online and in person events leading up to the Supreme Court hearing.

Please check our website, Twitter and Facebook accounts regularly for updates on how you can continue to join us to support refugee and immigrant communities and resist the Muslim ban.

 

ICE Moves to Destroy Records of Abuse

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has provisionally approved a request by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to destroy records related to detainees, which include, “incidents of sexual abuse and assault, escapes, deaths while in agency custody, telephone rates charged to detainees, alternatives to detention, logs and reports on status of detainees and detention facilities, and location and segregation of detainees.”

UUSC sent the following comment in response, urging NARA to deny this request:

The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) is gravely concerned by reports that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) seeks to destroy records pertaining to the sexual abuse, death, and solitary confinement of people in ICE detention. These documents provide a crucial evidentiary basis for future efforts to expose ICE abuses, hold the agency accountable, and offer a truthful historical reckoning of the nature of U.S. immigration enforcement. In light of the agency’s persistent failure to properly report and investigate human rights abuses, it would be grossly irresponsible to allow ICE to eliminate evidence of its own misconduct.

The government’s arguments in favor of destroying these documents are deeply flawed. UUSC rejects the claim put forward by federal appraisers, for instance, that retaining records of sexual abuse is unnecessary because “ICE creates annual reports on incidents of allegations of sexual abuse or assaults of individuals in ICE custody.” ICE has shown time and again it cannot be trusted to properly investigate its own officers and their actions. In April, UUSC’s partners at Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC) filed a civil rights complaint on behalf of victims of sexual abuse and assault in ICE detention. CIVIC found that between May 2014 and July 2016, ICE received on average more than one complaint of sexual abuse per day. Yet the agency investigated a mere 2.4% of the total. CIVIC also documented cases of retaliation and silencing of victims who reported abuse. In one instance, a woman was confined in solitary for over a week after she filed a harassment complaint against an officer.

ICE’s request to destroy documents comes at a time, moreover, when the agency is already under justified scrutiny for its lack of openness and transparency. After ICE announced plans for a massive deportation raid last week called “Operation Mega,” shortly after the termination of DACA, and then seemed to change course in the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, immigrant rights groups mobilized nationwide to lodge Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests at every ICE field office, demanding clarity about the agency’s plans and tactics. Danny Cendejas of the Detention Watch Network declared: “ICE is an agency that regularly lies and actively hides information from public view.” UUSC’s partners at CIVIC and Grassroots Leadership agree, providing numerous examples of this pattern of deception in previous ICE raids. The UndocuBlack Network, also a UUSC partner, also have a pending FOIA request with the Department of Homeland Security, which houses ICE, to expose its decision-making process regarding the fate of 50,000 Haitian immigrants with Temporary Protected Status (TPS).

Plainly what is needed is to shed more light on a secretive agency whose decisions daily impact the lives, freedom, and dignity of millions of non-citizens. To allow ICE to eliminate records of possible human rights violations at its own hands as early as 2023 (and at a rate much faster than other federal agencies) would be a dangerous step in the wrong direction. The thousands of people who pass through immigration detention each year without trial or due process deserve better. The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) should reject ICE’s request and ensure the preservation of these documents for future generations.

UUA, UUSC Leaders are Appalled by Decision to End DACA

DREAMers are not bargaining chips to be used for political gain

The Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray, President of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), and Thomas Andrews, President and CEO of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC), issued the following statement in response to the Trump administration’s announcement to end the DACA program:

“As leaders in faith and human rights, and working jointly through the Love Resists campaign to protect communities targeted by hate, we are appalled by the Trump administration’s announcement to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA has provided protections from deportations and the ability to work and attend school for more than 800,000 young immigrants. The United States is home to these brave people.

Taking away DREAMers’ legal status and leaving them vulnerable to deportation is immoral and wrong. DREAMers are not bargaining chips to be used for political gain, and the further criminalization and persecution of the broader immigrant community is disgraceful. These individuals are not statistics; they are students, doctors, and veterans, they are hard-working members and leaders of communities, they are parents, friends, neighbors and loved ones. Tearing our communities apart makes no one safer.

We raise our voices in outrage at the President’s betrayal of DREAMers so that he may receive accolades and applause from the alt-right and other white supremacist groups. This action goes against our nation’s principles and the views and wishes of the majority of the country. We are in solidarity with all DREAMers now facing a nightmare of uncertainty because of today’s announcement. We encourage Unitarian Universalists and all people of faith and conscience to rise up and resist this latest attack on our immigrant siblings.

To all those directly affected by this decision, we recognize your humanity. You are part of the United States. We will defend your right to stay. We will continue to resist with you in the spirit of love and freedom.”

This Labor Day, Take Action to Support Worker Rights

While for many it’s an extended weekend, we must not forget that Labor Day is the time to continue our push for worker rights, and the rights of vulnerable communities in the United States. Across the country UUSC partners, pro-worker organizations, and communities are coordinating events and actions to celebrate the contributions of low-wage workers and to call on elected officials to support worker rights.

With the election of Donald Trump, many low-wage workers are facing increasing discrimination and attacks on their rights in the work force, which makes this Labor Day weekend even more important. From the spread of right-to-work laws, that seek to undercut funding for unions, to employers reporting employees advocating for their rights to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), there have been numerous instances of efforts to undermine workers organizing and increasingly criminalize communities of color.

In this context, UUSC’s Economic Justice Program is responding by partnering, as part of Love Resists with grassroots worker centers and worker-led organizing groups in rural parts of the country where immigrants, Latinx individuals, Muslims, and other people of color are particularly at risk.

Here are just a few of the actions that we’re keeping our eye on this Labor Day weekend:

Pennsylvania

UUSC’s partner Make the Road PA is helping to organize four marches/direct actions across Pennsylvania on Monday, September 4 to demand an economy that works “for the many, not the few.” The events are aiming to push back against efforts to crack down on worker organizing, as well as the worker movement to improve wages and working conditions, and calls on people to march with the workers organizing “for their rights and future”. These rallies will be taking place in Allentown, Erie, Pittsburgh, and Wilkes-Barre, Penn.

Massachusetts

If you live in the Boston, Massachusetts-area, a group of organizations including Raise Up Massachusetts, Massachusetts Jobs with Justice, and others are hosting a rally and march to Copley Square on Monday, September 4. The rally and march are calling not only for a $15 per hour minimum wage, but also for union rights, as the action aims to center the demand for unions in the national dialogue.

Nationwide

No matter where you live, you can support the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) in your community and congregation through their Labor in the Pulpits resources. Their Labor Day worship resource guide includes information including supplemental readings, background on the Fair Food Program campaign, and sermon talking points so you can show your support for CIW in your congregations this Labor Day weekend.

In addition, you can take part in Alliance for Fair Food’s (AFF) Wendy’s Boycott pledge by downloading the photo template and uploading them to your congregation’s social media with the hashtag #BoycottWendys. If you participate in the photo boycott pledge, send your photos to organize@allianceforfairfood.org to share your photos with the national AFF network.

If you are participating in or hosting a Labor Day weekend action in your community or congregation, please tag UUSC on social media to show your support for worker rights and economic justice!

UUSC supporters join a protest at the Wendy’s in Columbus, Ohio during General Assembly 2016.

The Structures of White Supremacy Empowered Racist Violence in Charlottesville

UUSC decries both the white supremacist violence that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend and the everyday structures of racism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia, and homophobia in the United States that enable extremist violence.

The neo-fascist, neo-Nazi, and “alt-right” groups that converged on Charlottesville this weekend cannot be treated as simply fringe and isolated elements. They are a particularly extreme manifestation of the much deeper sickness of white supremacism in our society, where the legacy of slavery and discriminatory policies has led to extreme racial inequalities today in education, employment, incarceration, and wealth.

Likewise, as we celebrate the Unitarian Universalist (UU) values that call us to resist hatred and bigotry, we recognize the complicity and contradictions in our country, within UU history, and our own lives. Our partners at the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative (ARC) remind us: “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.”

While controversy following the events in Charlottesville has centered on the President’s disturbing response to the violence, we must not forget the even more direct role he continues to play in empowering the forces of the extreme right. Leaders at all levels should unequivocally denounce these actions, and we must all work to reverse course on policies that criminalize and stigmatize communities of color. This includes the promotion of anti-immigration legislation that reads like a white nationalist wish list

We mourn the death and loss of life that occurred this past weekend. We also recognize that structures of supremacy are inherently violent, and they are killing and harming people every day in ways that don’t receive equal public attention. We are inspired by the example of people of faith and conscience, including many Unitarian Universalists, who went to Charlottesville this weekend to counter the violence of hate with a message of love. “They showed us that the light of hope and love burns brighter than hate. It is imperative that we keep this flame alive even in these dark times,” says UUSC President and CEO Tom Andrews.

As we process our personal and organizational response to the weekend events, we are creating space to meet with one another as a staff to share our grief, reflect on the systems of racism that exist, and plan our response. We continue to support the individuals and groups that are targeted by the neo-fascist, neo-Nazi, and “alt-right” movement. May our grief for the past and present move us to work harder for the future as it ought to be. As the great labor organizer Mary Harris “Mother” Jones once bid us: “pray for the dead—and fight like hell for the living.”

We Denounce the Suppression of Climate Science

Yesterday’s New York Times article about the leaked special section of the draft National Climate Assessment provides further scientific evidence of what our partners in the Pacific and Alaska already know and are experiencing. Global warming has melted glaciers, shrunk sea ice, and thawed permafrost in Alaska and in the greater Arctic region. Global warming has increased ocean temperatures and caused rising sea levels in the Pacific. These are not only findings from the draft report but the actual lived experiences of our partners, some of whom are already facing the real threat of losing their land and their homes.

These communities, like many others both here in the United States and around the world, do not need their experiences to be qualified by this scientific report, nor do we need this report to affirm our values and commitment to environmental justice. Our shared humanity demands this.

However, we do need facts – unbiased, unsolicited, bipartisan evidence – upon which we can create the policies that we need to protect our planet and to respond to the growing risks of climate change to ourselves and our communities, both here and afar. Moreover, we need public servants who respect the integrity and dedication of the scientists who collect this data and who are committed to enacting legislation based on their findings.

Through this article, these scientists have publicly expressed their fear that government will suppress this report. We share their concerns and believe that this administration’s continued disregard of science is unjustified and dangerous. UUSC and our partners are in solidarity with these scientists and we will be watching closely to see that the Climate Science Special Report is released later this fall.