- Unitarian Universalism Connection
UURISE is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization incorporated in 2007 with a mission to Advance justice and human rights for immigrants and refugees.
What Is This About?
The Sanctuary Movement began in the 1980s, in recognition of the fact that the Central American refugees entering the United States and at risk of deportation were fleeing death. At that time, churches took a stand and provided Sanctuary against deportation. Faith communities have long been recognized as safe places, and have leveraged this recognition by providing Sanctuary, including a safe place to live and myriad supportive services.
The New Sanctuary movement began at the end of 2007 in response to a lack of sorely needed comprehensive immigration reform. Efforts have been increasing, particularly since 2013 when deportations initiated by the Obama administration ramped up, and again after the 2016 election when it became clear that existing protections are no longer in place. The UUA and UURISE are members of the New Sanctuary Movement as are some individual congregations.
Civil Disobedience: Providing Sanctuary is an expensive and time-intensive act of peaceful civil disobedience, often requiring capital investment in facilities to provide living accommodations, including showers and private space. Because the congregation is making a decision to act in opposition to a law they see as unjust, support through the discernment process is critical.
Discernment: As a result of referrals from the UUA and New Sanctuary movement leaders, UURISE has been providing Sanctuary consultation for congregations that are looking at providing Sanctuary or Sanctuary support. A clear and thorough discernment process helps congregations discover their own call and commitment, and is not designed to “convince” congregations to become Sanctuary congregations. Congregations must decide if they have the drive and resources to cover food, clothing and other living expenses for the individual in shelter because, once sheltered, the individual cannot leave the facility until their legal case is resolved, which often takes a year or more. Additionally, Sanctuary is most effective and safe if a representative of the institution is present 24 hours/day. This is where Sanctuary support congregations are important. They may not have the space to provide Sanctuary, but they partner with other congregations and immigrant-led organizations to help raise funds, provide volunteer services, donate items, provide meals and more.
Additionally, UURISE is supporting many congregations to discern their path as they move toward a justice accompaniment model, in which we deeply understand and leverage our privilege to amplify and lift up the leadership and stories of those in Sanctuary. The flexibility of justice accompaniment marries being intentionally proactive and intentionally responsive to changing needs as they arise. In a justice accompaniment model we center the work of Sanctuary on the person requesting Sanctuary, walking with or behind them, following their lead as we work to re-create structure and institutional procedures that rebalance the scales, refocus the lens, and help us all step away from systems and institutions that dominate and oppress, and toward a valuing of the inherent worth and dignity of every individual. Focusing on a justice accompaniment model means focusing on a broad range of flexible justice strategies, such as accompaniment to ICE meetings, rapid response, vigils and other actions that are sometimes needed in order to witness and hold authorities and institutions accountable.
Overwhelming Need: In early 2016, UURISE was funded by the UUFP to provide the Sanctuary organizing and training/TA project to six congregations, and prior to the 2016 election was engaged with three congregations. Since the election, UURISE has provided individual Sanctuary discernment, organizing and/or training assistance to an additional 48 congregations, in unfunded but essential work. Also, post-election, UURISE has provided technical assistance to and regularly partnered with UUA, UUSC, UUCSJ, and SSL staff to address the increased need for information and support to provide Sanctuary, support Sanctuary, expand Sanctuary, to address the need for rapid response networks such as Sanctuary in the Streets, and to provide outreach to specific, high-risk geographic areas.
What Do We Plan To Do?
UURISE, in partnership with the UU College of Social Justice, has developed a specialized Sanctuary Toolkit, modeled after Sanctuary Movement 2014, for use with UU and other non-hierarchical faith institutions, guiding them through the process of discernment, including the call to provide Sanctuary, examining and preparing facilities, understanding legal ramifications, and preparation to act as a liaison with the immigrant’s attorney so that the attorney does not need to play a role in the Sanctuary or civil disobedience process. UURISE helps organizations to create a plan for Sanctuary, and ushers them through the challenges that come from addressing their own privilege, including taking the lead from immigrant-led organizations about what is needed, the nuts and bolts of conducting a bilingual meeting and more. The consultation process supports organizations through the process of conducting cottage meetings (not a part of the original toolkit), and a congregational vote, ensuring that leaders have sufficient information and a resource for questions from the congregation.
UURISE is helping congregations to connect to Sanctuary Coalitions, and where none exist, UURISE is helping congregations to create them. Sanctuary Coalitions provide regional, interfaith structure that brings Sanctuary congregations together with other Sanctuary congregations as well as Sanctuary support congregations, expanding and leveraging resources such as volunteers to maximum benefit.
UURISE plans to expand its work on short-term Sanctuary, and is collaborating with UU congregations and non-UU immigrant justice organizations to develop a replicable model for short-term Sanctuary whereby those at immediate risk are offered respite and Sanctuary in order to access a legal consultation and make decisions about how to proceed on their case.
UURISE plans to expand work on Sanctuary in the Streets, working with congregations to start rapid response networks. Sanctuary in the Streets networks respond to an immediate call to witness or action, often through text or social media, directing them to show up at a specific location. These tactics have been successful because ICE prefers to work out of public view. By showing up, these activists provide witness and hold ICE accountable, recording, and reporting enforcement actions to the community, shining a light and bringing these actions out of the shadows and into the public consciousness (and conscience).
UURISE is building the capacity to facilitate more structured networking between those congregations going through the discernment process, those providing Sanctuary, and Sanctuary support, and those considering entering this work, as a way to facilitate shared learning, support and troubleshooting, and to allow UUs to deepen their faith rooted justice work through connection with other UUs.
Finally, UURISE will continue offering informational and training webinars that people can participate in live, or watch on their own schedule via archived recordings. UURISE will continue to offer workshops and gatherings at district and regional assemblies in order to reach multiple congregations at one time, and will apply for consideration to provide a Sanctuary Workshop at the 2018 General Assembly, or will provide an off-grid meeting as UURISE has done in the past if the proposed workshop is not chosen. Who Does Sanctuary Help?
There are currently over 30 people in Sanctuary in the U.S. With escalating, draconian enforcement measures being instituted, sanctuary congregations must continuously review, update and reinforce their safety procedures. Because of this, we want to be nimble, and we want to be mindful of how we show up, and how we talk about our partners in Sanctuary. Privacy is key to security and respect is central to how we show up.
Sanctuary providers are large urban UU congregations, small rural UU congregations, immigrant justice teams and everything in between, that are walking the walk of their faith, and looking for creative strategies to deepen and broaden their work in immigrant justice. They are taking a courageous look at their privilege, being accountable to partners, making mistakes and continuing the work.
Those in Sanctuary come from all over the world, from Mexico to South America, from Turkey and Syria and more, and out of many different circumstances. What they have in common is that they are fleeing violence and death threats because of who they are, what they believe, or who they love. They are teachers, scholars, parents, Muslims, Christians, and political activists. They are Fulbright Scholars, and farmworkers. Many are victims of crime that are slogging through the immigration process to try to qualify for benefits such as U-Visas. They often have not had effective counsel. They are me, and they are you.
Where Will Your Dollars Go?
Our ultimate goal for this campaign is $50,000. Because this is our first Faithify campaign and we want to make sure we complete it successfully, we have set an official campaign goal of $10,000 – So, don’t hesitate to help us fly past our goal! We will be watching carefully and adding stretch goals along the way to meet our ultimate campaign goal. In addition to this Faithify campaign, we are persistently writing grants, hosting events, and seeking individual and congregational (plate share, special collections, generosity Sundays) donations. We have a plan and we are excited that you are interested in partnering with us!
$10,000 will support UURISE with the staffing, materials, and IT resources to provide training and technical assistance to UU congregations requesting support. The more we raise, the more we’ll be able to do. When we reach our ultimate $50,000 goal, we’ll be able to hire staff fully dedicated to this work.
Who We Are
The UURISE Team (board, volunteers and staff), is comprised of attorneys, social workers, clergy, and impacted community members with deep and broad experience working in community organizing and immigrant justice. The Team has the specialized legal expertise required to design processes and interventions alongside individuals and communities for greatest justice impact. The UURISE Team has actively worked with Sanctuary since its founding in 2007.
Answering the Call
UURISE needs you. Together we are more than we could ever be alone. We are counting on you to help us ensure that Unitarian Universalists and other liberal religious communities have the capacity to be a robust partner in the provision of Sanctuary nationwide. Many thanks for your support and partnership!