The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee advances human rights through grassroots collaborations.
Right to Safety in Central America
The root causes of forced displacement are just as important to address as ensuring sanctuary and refuge from harm. UUSC focuses its efforts on supporting new systems of protection, particularly for women and Indigenous youth, and stopping U.S. military aid to security forces and U.S.-backed development projects, both of which escalate violence and create instability.
In El Salvador, we are supporting the development of a pilot model for how states can intervene to protect victims in ways that do not escalate patterns of violence through our partnership with Fundación Cristosal.
In Nicaragua, we support a grassroots women’s organization, Fundación entre Mujeres, that helps women develop alternative livelihoods and free them from abusive partners.
In Guatemala, we support efforts to reintegrate Indigenous Maya youth who have been deported, through our partnership with Asociación Pop No’j.
In Honduras, we support Foro de Mujeres Por La Vida, a coalition of over 17 women’s organizations, to reduce gender-based violence and document the impact of increased militarization on women’s security. The dangers that women and human rights defenders face in Honduras are inseparable from the violation of ancestral and Indigenous land rights—in many cases linked to U.S.-backed development projects. This violence forces more people to flee the country in search of safety, exacerbating instability throughout the region.
Disputed elections in November 2017 triggered country-wide protests and peaceful demonstrations in Honduras that have been met with ongoing and excessive force. Honduran security forces, many of which receive U.S. aid, are directly implicated in human rights violations, including excessive force against protesters, and attacks on human rights defenders and media workers. UUSC joined emergency delegations to Honduras in May and January 2018 to accompany human rights defenders and survivors of state violence and repression on their return home from a U.S. tour where they spoke out about the continuing crisis affecting their country.
Right to Safety on the Migrant Trail
UUSC supports organizations along the migrant trail from Central America to the United States to protect migrants from violence and extortion while in transit and help them to safely seek asylum in Mexico, if they choose to do so.
Our partners advocate for transnational systems to ensure crimes against undocumented migrants can be reported and prosecuted, and help families locate their missing family members. They provide legal assistance to seek asylum in Mexico and help strengthen Mexico’s overwhelmed asylum system. They also direct safe transit shelters where migrants can be informed of their rights and work to expose and address causes of migrant deaths in the desert.
As the United States seeks to shift the burden to transit countries and deter asylum-seekers from finding safety within its borders, it is even more crucial that human rights defenders monitor asylum systems and immigration enforcement across borders.
Human Rights and the U.S. Immigration System
UUSC believes that migrants in the United States should have the right to seek asylum, be free from arbitrary detention and deportation, and that families should stay together out of detention.
We are supporting our partners in their work to document abuses in immigration detention centers and at the U.S.-Mexico border, to provide legal assistance to seek asylum, and to establish and maintain a national pro bono hotline for immigrants in detention to receive legal support, connect with family, and advocate for themselves.
We collaborate on original research and documentation, such as our reports on mental health assessment in detention and the Central American Minors In-Country Refugee Processing (CAM) refugee program.
We also campaign for more just and humane U.S. immigration policies that will keep families together in our communities, and do not deport them to danger. Tearing our communities apart makes no one safer.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program provided protections from deportations and the ability to work and attend school for more than 800,000 young immigrants. In September 2017, the Trump administration cancelled this program, removing DACA recipients’ (commonly referred to as “Dreamers”) legal status and leaving them vulnerable to deportation.
UUSC and our partners and allies continue to advocate for passage of a clean Dream Act, which would create a pathway to citizenship for more than 2.1 million undocumented young immigrants who came to the United States as children, without additional anti-immigrant provisions that harm our communities, such as billions of dollars to expand the border wall, more immigration detention centers, or restrictions to diversity visas and family-based migration.
Temporary Protected Status
Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is designation that the U.S. government can offer non- citizens who are unable to safely return to their countries of origin due to political instability and violence or as a countries recovers from a natural disaster. As of October 2017, 437,000 people had TPS in the United States from 10 countries—El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.
TPS is one way the U.S. government can honor its moral and humanitarian obligation to provide safe haven to people who may be in danger. However, under the Trump administration, TPS has been drastically curtailed. Since August 2017, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has cancelled TPS for multiple countries, hundreds of thousands of people at risk of losing their livelihoods and being separated from their families.