Tucsonitarian Home Page

July 2018

The monthly newsletter of the

Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson

4831 E. 22nd Street, Tucson, AZ 85711, 520-748-1551, www.uuctucson.org.

To view previous editions of the newsletter, click here.

Newsletter editor: Craig Rock at newsletter@uuctucson.org.

Send us your editorials, stories, poems and photos.

(Photos on this page by Craig Rock)

From the UUA.ORG Website

UUA Condemns Assault on Asylum Families

The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) condemns the Trump administration’s appalling assault on vulnerable families seeking asylum in the United States.

“The policy of this administration to separate children from their parents at the border is immoral, inhumane and indefensible," says UUA president, the Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray. "These families arrive desperate for safe-haven, seeking asylum having fled violence and disruption in their own homeland – and instead of safety, they are further traumatized, victimized and criminalized at the hands of the U.S. government."

Poster Photo from Tucson rally for immigrant families on June 30.

Those who are fleeing violence and seeking safety for themselves or their families should find support and reassurance at the U.S. border, not the criminalization and separation of their communities.

Compounding this travesty is the Trump administration's use of religion to justify separating families at the U.S. and Mexico border. This is nothing short of religious malpractice.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ use of the Bible to justify family separation echos the ways the Bible was used to support American slavery, Nazi Germany, and South African Apartheid.

The UUA rejects this administration’s manipulation of sacred texts to explain the dehumanizing consequences of its immoral policies.

As people whose religious tradition calls us to seek justice, we will continue to side with those most in need and most vulnerable, building on our decades of commitments to support the dignity of immigrants and displaced people. Through our Love Resists campaign, we will continue to help those seeking sanctuary and safety. We will also continue to follow the lead of organizers and organizations most impacted by these immoral immigration policies.

“Every human being has a right to flee from danger,” says Rev. Frederick-Gray. “Every parent has a fundamental right to seek safety and survival for their children. Migration is not a crime. Being a refugee is not a crime. Certainly, I would do whatever was needed to protect my child and my family – wouldn’t you?”

Travel Funds Available*

Join us for Justice Action in San Diego - July 2

(An Update from the UUA's Pacific Western Region)

"This is no time for a casual faith."-Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray, UUA President

Join us Monday, July 2nd.

RSVP via Side of Love

Can't make it to San Diego in person? We offer many ways you can help:

Donate to Mijente's #FreeOurFuture work support to make sure that frontline young people, immigrants (many undocumented), Indigenous folks, and other working-class folks who otherwise would not be able to attend, are there.

UU Justice Ministry of California is raising money to subsidize UUs of color's participation in conjunction with Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism. Visit their website to donate. (You can request forms via the Side of Love RSVP form, above.)

Learn more about ICE and how they are harming our communities.

Follow, amplify and share widely information about Mijente's #AbolishICE #ShutDownSessions #FreeOurFuture campaign.

Show your support publicly! RSVP on Mijente's Facebook Page.

In the spirit of love, and with hope that love conquers all,

Rev. Sarah Gibb Millspaugh and the entire Pacific Western Region team

*Information on Funding Available for San Diego Event

For our part, the UU Justice Ministry of California has been raising funds and responding to the travel needs of UUs from across the country. As part of their response, the Pacific Southwest District of the UUA has allocated funds to support UUs from PSWD in taking part in this important event. If anyone feels called to come to San Diego, please have them call me at 213-819-7200 (between 6am and midnight Pacific time) or email me at evan@uujmca.org ASAP so I can put them on the list and work out any logistical issues with them. We have funds available for gas reimbursement, airfare (when necessary) and lodging.

Newsletter Contents

Page 1- Farewell Note from Rev. Lyn; UUA Condemns Assault on Asylum Families; Join Us for Justice Action in San Diego; Report from UUA's General Assembly; and Senator Warren's Trip to an Immigrant "Camp."

Page 2 - Welcome New Members; UUCT Finance Report; SAZCUUPS News; and Announcements.

Page 3 - No More Deaths; Community Food Bank; and Citizen's Climate Lobby.

Page 4 - 2017 Photos from the Tucsonitarian, celebrating the end of year 2 of our online monthly newsletter.


Farewell from Reverend Lyn

Dear UUCT Members and Friends,

I want to thank you all for the privilege of serving as your interim minister. From the very first few weeks, when you shared your ideas, concerns and visions for UUCT with me, I have been inspired by your resilience, integrity and optimism.

You created an atmosphere of initiative, getting things done, and creative approaches. You worked hard and you have been generous. Thanks to your generosity and a lot of hard work, the congregation’s finances are greatly improved, which has meant that many needed building repairs and other outstanding needs have been met. You have come forward with ideas to meet all sorts of needs, with new programs, continuing programs, and enthusiastic concern for the well-being and future of one another and the congregation. (Photo of Rev. Lyn at the June 30 Rally for Immigrant Families.

UUCT is an energetic, exciting experience, building on the work of enthusiastic volunteers and selfless commitment from your leaders and your own unique selves. Your positive, constructive attitudes and concerns for the congregation in all its aspects, and your initiatives, have transformed the campus and this beloved community. Your future is bright and boundless. I will miss you and your dedication to this bright light in the beautiful Sonoran Desert. Thank you for your support, and your dedication to Unitarian Universalism, our fabulous faith. The future is yours to create and build.

In faith and love,

Reverend Lyn

Capsule Report from General Assembly

Click here to view GA talks

(Editor's Note: Reverend Lyn sent this capsule of the some of the important events from her trip to the UUA General Assembly. This one day capsule report was written by Star King School for the Ministry - SKSM.)

June 24, 2018

Our fourth day at GA included: (1) another mini-lecture on the Racovian Catechism with Dr. Jay Atkinson, (2) Testimony: Unitarian Universalism Transforms Lives, (3) Better Coping Through Faith Community: A Support Model, (4) Why Truth Comes First in "Truth and Reconciliation," (5) UUJA End of Shabbat Ritual: Havdalah, (6) the Ware Lecture, and (7) the annual Starr King Gala!

Polity Intenstive Class

The Rev. Dr. Meg Richardson conducted our yearly polity class which covered issues of UU government. This class offers a unique look into the structure and function of the UUA and our congregations. Dr. Richardson teaches this class at GA so that students can attend general sessions and see polity in action.

The Racovian Catechism with Dr. Jay Atkinson

Dr. Jay Atkinson blessed us with a second mini-lecture on our 1609 Latin translation of the Racovian Catechism at the Starr King booth. The GA Polity intensive class attended the lecture as well as a number of non-SKSM attendees. We look forward to showcasing the rare book collection more in the coming months.

Testimony: Unitarian Universalism Transforms Lives!

The Church of the Larger Fellowship Worship began with singing "River" as a group, followed by a welcome from Senior Minister Rev. Meg Riley. Director of Prison Ministries and SKSM grad Mandy Goheen lit the chalice and shared a heartbreaking letter from an incarcerated member of CLF that truly demonstrated the importance of CLF and Unitarian Universalism in the prison system. The rest of the worship service consisted of many testimonies, including one by Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt. Rev. Bray McNatt told the story of how she found Unitarian Universalism after rejecting the church at a young age. She described how she found faith, family, community, and her calling in Unitarian Universalism.

Better Coping Through Faith Community: A Support Model

Our very own Assistant Professor of Ethics and Society, Megan Dowdell, led a workshop on building support groups for people with chronic illnesses and/or pain within congregations. She discussed the sometimes blurred lines between mental and physical health and the difficulties of being inclusive without the group becoming too broad. The audience simulated their own support groups while Megan helped facilitate.

Why Truth Comes First in "Truth and Reconciliation"

We are blessed that SKSM Board Trustee, the Rev. Dr. Natalie Fenimore, serves on the UUA's Commission on Institutional Change. Rev. Fenimore participated in a discussion on the process of Truth and Reconciliation within Unitarian Universalism. The Commission urged the reduction of inadequate responses when information is so readily available. They advised the audience to be uncomfortable but not afraid to begin; to acknowledge our role in the system and practice humility and forgiveness. Our commission on institutional change is leading the movement in a process to determine what truth and reconciliation means for us as Unitarian Universalists today.

UUJA End of Shabbat Ritual: Havdalah

SKSM Board Trustee Rev. Alison Miller participated in a discussion on Jewish rituals in Unitarian Universalist churches. She recommended the audience pay attention to the liturgical year when planning ervices and rituals. She makes it a practice to not overlap Jewish rituals with traditional Christian rituals unless they fall on the same day. Additionally, she pointed out that different people tend to choose different holidays to delve into. Not all who attend Jewish rituals identify as Jewish, and vice versa.

Ware Lecture

Brittany Packnett was this year's Ware Lecturer. The Ware Lecture was founded in 1922 to bring visionary speakers to share their insights and give attendees a challenge at GA. Ms. Packnett is an educator, activist, writer and national leader in social justice. She is the Vice President of National Community Alliances for Teach for America where she leads a team engaging with communities and children of color. She is co-founder of Campaign Zero, a comprehensive policy platform to end police violence. She was also a member of the Ferguson Commission and served on President Obama's Taskforce for 21st Century Policing. Her powerful remarks at the Ware Lecture focused on the "spirit of expectancy." As she challenged us with love, "We are called to make the world better... Your power is waiting on you to pick it up, inform it with love and expectancy, and work."

Starr King Gala

Starr King staff, faculty, students and friends wrapped up our GA events in style at our annual Gala. We celebrated the successes of our past year. We also turned out en masse on the dance floor. It was a joy to celebrate with everyone and the food and music were fantastic. We look forward to doing it again next year in Spokane, Washington. Make plans to join us!

Thank you so much for your interest in following Starr King at General Assembly. That's all for this year's coverage. For more photos from GA, keep an eye on our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram in the coming weeks. See you at next year's GA in Spokane, WA! www.sksm.edu

(Editor's Note: If you are in doubt about calls to close down or revamp ICE - Immigration and Customs Enforcement - this report by Senator Elizabeth Warren is a must-read.)

Senator Elizabeth Warren's Trip to Hell, Texas

Sunday morning (June 24), I flew to McAllen, Texas to find out what's really happening to immigrant families ripped apart by the Trump administration.

There's one thing that's very clear: The crisis at our border isn't over.

I went straight from the airport to the McAllen Customs and Border Protection (CBP) processing center that is the epicenter of Donald Trump's so-called "zero-tolerance" policy. This is where border patrol brings undocumented migrants for intake before they are either released, deported, turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), or, in the case of unaccompanied or separated children, placed in the custody of Health and Human Services.

From the outside, the CBP processing center looks like any other warehouse on a commercial street lined with warehouses. There's no clue about the horrors inside.

Before we could get in, CBP insisted we had to watch a government propaganda video. There's no other way to describe it – it's like a movie trailer. It was full of dramatic narration about the "illegals" crossing our border, complete with gory pictures about the threats that these immigrants bring to the United States, from gangs to skin rashes. The star of the show is CBP, which, according to the video, has done a great job driving down the numbers.

Then an employee described what we were about to see. "They have separate pods. I'll call them pods. I don't really know how they name them." Clearly they had gotten the memo not to call them what they are: cages. Every question I asked them had a complicated answer that led to two more questions – even the simple question about how long people were held there. "Nobody is here longer than 24 hours." "Well, maybe 24-48 hours." "72 hours max." And "no children are separated out." "Well, except older children."

The warehouse is enormous, with a solid concrete floor and a high roof. It is filled with cages. Cages for men. Cages for women. Cages for mamas with babies. Cages for girls. Cages for boys.

The stench – body odor and fear – hits the second the door is opened. The first cages are full of men. The chain link is about 12-15 feet high, and the men are tightly packed. I don't think they could all lie down at the same time. There's a toilet at the back of the cage behind a half-wall, but no place to shower or wash up. One man kept shouting, "A shower, please. Just a shower."

I asked the men held in cage after cage where they were from. Nearly all of them were from El Salvador, Guatemala, or Honduras.

Then I asked them how long they had been there – and the answers were all over the map, from a few days to nearly two weeks (72 hours max?). The CBP agents rushed to correct the detained men, claiming that their answers couldn't be right. My immigration specialist on the trip who speaks fluent Spanish made sure the men understood that the question was, "How long have you been in the building?" Their answers didn't change.

Cage after cage. Same questions, same answers.

Next we came into the area where the children were held. These cages were bigger with far more people. In the center of the cage, there's a freestanding guard tower probably a story or story-and-a-half taller to look down over the children. The girls are held separately in their own large cage. The children told us that they had come to the United States with family and didn't know where they had been taken. Eleven years old. Twelve. Locked in a cage with strangers. Many hadn't talked to their mothers or fathers. They didn't know where they were or what would happen to them next.

The children were quiet. Early afternoon, and they just sat. Some were on thin mats with foil blankets pulled over their heads. They had nothing – no books, no toys, no games. They looked shell shocked.

And then there were the large cages with women and small children. Women breast-feeding their young children.

When we went over to the mamas with babies, I asked them about why they had left their home countries. One young mother had a 4-year-old child. She said she had been threatened by the gangs in El Salvador. She had given a drink of water to a police officer, and the gang decided she must be in with the police. The longer she spoke, the more agitated she got – that she would never do that, that she understood the risk with the gangs, but that the gangs believed she did it. She sold everything she had and fled with her son to the United States.

One thing you won't see much of in the CBP processing center? Fathers caged with their children. After pressing the CBP agents, they explained that men traveling with children are automatically released from the facility. They just don't have the cages there to hold them. Women with small children, on the other hand, could be detained indefinitely. I pressed them on this again and again. The only answer: they claimed to be protecting "the safety of the mother and children."

CBP said that fathers with children, pregnant women, mothers of children with special needs, and other "lucky ones" who are released from the processing center are sent over to Catholic Charities' Humanitarian Respite Center for help. That was my next stop in McAllen. Sister Norma, her staff, and volunteers are truly doing God's work. Catholic Charities provides food, a shower, clean clothes, and medicine to those who need it. The center tries to explain the complicated process to the people, and the volunteers help them get on a bus to a family member in the United States.

Sister Norma introduced me to a father and his teenage son from Honduras. The father said that a gang had been after his son, determined that the boy would join the gang. The only way for the boy to escape was to run. The man left his wife and four daughters in Honduras to bring his son to the United States. His only plan is to find work here to send money home to his family. His cousin lives in New Jersey, so CBP sent their paperwork to the local ICE center in New Jersey, and they would soon begin the long bus ride there.

Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley provides a lifesaving service to people of all faiths and backgrounds, but with a humanitarian crisis in their backyard, they're clearly stretched as thin as it gets. With more money and volunteers, they would gladly help more people.

I asked Sister Norma about the women and babies who were in indefinite detention. She said her group would open their arms and take care of them, get them cleaned up and fed and on a bus to a family member – if only ICE would release them.

"This is a moral issue. We are all part of this human family," they say.

Next, I met with some of the legal experts on the frontlines of this crisis – lawyers from the Texas Civil Rights Project, the Border Rights Center of the Texas ACLU, and the federal public defenders.

I gave them a rundown of everything I'd seen so far in McAllen, particularly when it comes to reuniting parents and children, and they raised some of my worst fears:

The Trump administration may be "reunifying" families, but their definition of a family is only a parent and a child. If, for example, a 9-year-old crosses with an 18-year-old sister – or an aunt or uncle, or a grandparent, or anyone who isn't the child's documented legal guardian – they are not counted as a family and they will be separated.

Mothers and children may be considered "together" if they're held in the same gigantic facility, even if they're locked in separate cages with no access to one another. (In the world of CBP and ICE, that's how the 10-year-old girls locked in a giant cage are "not separated" from their mothers who are in cages elsewhere in the facility.)

In the process of "reunifying" families, the government may possibly count a family as reunited by sending the child to a distant relative they've never met – not their parents. Some relatives may be unwilling to claim these children because it would be inviting ICE to investigate their own families.

Parents are so desperate to be reunited with their children that they may be trading in their legal right to asylum.

The system for tracking separated families is virtually unknown, if one exists at all. One expert worries that for some families, just a simple photo may be all the documentation that the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Health and Human Services have to reunite them. (I sincerely hope that's not true.)

The longer the day went on, the more questions I had about how the Trump administration plans to fix the crisis they've created at the border. So my last stop of the day was at the Port Isabel Detention Center, about an hour east of McAllen. It's one of the largest detention facilities in Texas.

The Department of Homeland Security had released some details on its plan to reunify families. The release noted that Port Isabel will be the "primary family reunification and removal center for adults in their custody."

Let's be clear: Port Isabel isn't a reunification center. It's a detention center. A prison.

There's no ambiguity on this point. I met with the head of the facility. He said several times that they had no space for children, no way to care for them, and no plans to bring any children to his locked-down complex. When I pressed on what was the plan for reunification of children with their parents, he speculated that HHS (the Department of Health and Human Services) would take the children somewhere, but it certainly wasn't going to be to his facility. When I asked how long HHS would take, he speculated that it would be weeks, but he said that was up to them. He had his job to do: He would hold these mothers and fathers until he received orders to send them somewhere else. Period.

So let me say it again. This is a prison – not a reunification center.

We toured the center. It is huge – multiple buildings isolated on a sun-baked expanse of land far from any town. We didn't go to the men's area, but the women are held in a large bunk-bed facility with a concrete outdoor exercise area. It's locked, double-locked, and triple locked. Tall fences topped with razor wire are everywhere, each backed up by a second row of fences also topped with razor wire.

An ICE official brought in a group of nine detained mothers who had volunteered to speak to us. I don't believe that ICE cherry-picked these women for the meeting, because everything they told me was horrifying.

Each mother told us her own story about crossing the border, being taken to a processing center, and the point that they were separated from their child or children. In every case, the government had lied to them about where their children were being taken. In every case, save one, no mother had spoken to her child in the days since the separation. And in every case, no mother knew where her child was.

At the time of separation, most of the mothers were told their children would be back. One woman had been held at "the icebox," a center that has earned its nickname for being extremely cold. When the agent came to take her child, she was told that it was just too cold for the child in the center, and that they were just going to keep the child warm until she was transferred. That was mid-June. She hasn't seen her child since.

One mother had been detained with her child. They were sleeping together on the floor of one of the cages, when, at 3:00am, the guards took her away. She last saw her 7-year-old son sleeping on the floor. She cried over and over, "I never got to say goodbye. I never got to say goodbye." That was early-June, and she hasn't seen him since.

Even though the CBP officials at the processing center told me that mothers with children that have special needs would be released, one of the mothers I spoke with had been separated from her special needs child. She talked about her child who doesn't have properly formed legs and feet and walks with great difficulty. One of the mothers spoke of another mother in the facility who is very worried because her separated child is deaf and doesn't speak at all.

The women I met were traumatized, weeping, and begging for help. They don't understand what is happening to them – and they're begging to be reunited with their kids.

Detainees can pay to make phone calls, but all of their possessions are taken from them at the processing center. The only way they can get money for a call is for someone to put money on their accounts. I asked if people or charities could donate money so that they'd be able to make phone calls to their family or lawyers, but they said no – a donor would need the individual ID number for every person detained at the center, and ICE obviously isn't going to release that information.

Three young lawyers were at Port Isabel at the same time we were. The lawyers told us that their clients – the people they've spoken to in the detention center – have strong and credible cases for asylum. But the entire process for being granted asylum depends on one phone call with an immigration official where they make the case for why they should be allowed to stay. One of the first questions a mother will be asked is, "Have you been separated from a child?" For some of the women, just asking that question makes them fall apart and weep.

The lawyers are worried that these women are in such a fragile and fractured state, they're in no shape to make the kind of detailed, credible case needed for themselves or their children. They had no chance in our system because they've lost their children and desperately want them back.

We stayed inside at Port Isabel for more than two hours – much longer than the 45 minutes we had been promised. When I finally went to bed that night, I thought about something the mothers had told me – something that will likely haunt me for a long time.

The mothers say that they can hear babies cry at night.

This isn't about politics. This isn't about Democrats or Republicans. This is about human beings. Children held in cages today. Babies scattered all over this country. And mamas who, in the dark of night, hear them cry.

I'm still working through everything I saw, but I wanted you to know the full story. The fight for these children and families isn't over – not by a long shot.