2015 Annual Report – Immigration Team

-from Suzie George, Immigration Team, Chair

This year we did some follow up work regarding the “Bed Quota Resolution” that was passed at the 2014 Annual meeting. Our Conference Moderator sent a letter to strategic political and religious leaders informing them of the resolution and what says and what we believe and what we want them to do. Basically, the Bed Quota requires 34,000 detention beds be filled every night. So, when one detainee is deported, or freed, someone needs to go out and find someone else for that bed that night.

Diane Haines and Susan George traveled to Washington, DC. to participate in a strategic planning session put on by the Detention Watch Network. Basically, we learned that all the ground we have gained on the Bed Quota issue is being reversed.  The surge of Families and children crossing the border last summer and fall turned the momentum against us again.  All of a sudden the need for more detention space was created.  Even President Obama has indicated interest in increasing the number of beds in the appropriations bill.  We continue to watch and listen and ACT whenever possible.  The plan is to communicate nationally within this Detention Watch Network to be able to support and act with other organizations in a more unified, powerful voice.  The Immigration Team will share what we learn.

The Immigration Team continues to focus on delivering our Workshops to UCC Churches throughout Minnesota. Our workshops set the theological ground work for our conversation on immigration. (There are at least 52 passages in the Bible that speak specifically to “welcoming the stranger”, “love one another” etc.)  We follow with a conversation about why immigrants come here. Some come as refugees from their home where it is no longer safe for them to stay. Some come because of the policies we (the USA) enacted, specifically NAFTA. These policies benefit the USA, and our multi‐ national corporations. NAFTA created forced migration. We end the time with opportunities for action. Along with our information about the timely issues, we also provide a variety of “leave behinds”, tools and ideas for them to keep.

This year we collaborated with the UCC Church in Alexandria, MN. Their 5-week Lenten series focused on Immigration. It was a powerful program which had congregation members as well as outside community participation.  We helped them in the idea planning stages and offered suggestions of local speakers to contact. Two of the Wednesday nights we had members of our Immigration Team as the presenters.  It was a very beneficial session and we are delighted with the connection we made in Alexandria.

In addition to reaching out to MN UCC churches, we have collaborated with a number of other organizations focusing on Comprehensive Immigration Reform. One such organization is ICOM Interfaith Coalition on Immigration ‐‐ (which was co‐founded by the MN Conference Immigration Team). Together we participate in the monthly interfaith Vigils and the Conversations with Friends Program, both at the Ramsey County Detention Center.

As the politics continues to get in the way of HUMANE IMMIGRATION REFORM, we will continue to find hope and ways to create friends and connections with others in order that there will be no strangers in this land.  May it be so.

The Immigration Team: Susan George, Mayflower Church, Minneapolis; John Guttermann, UCC New Brighton; Diane Haines, Mayflower Church, Minneapolis; Bruce Richardson,First Congregational, Austin; Joanne Sylvander, Cherokee Park United Church, St. Paul; Nathan Syverson, Robbinsdale UCC