Unitarian Universalists rallied for immigrant rights with members of Utah’s interfaith community in downtown Salt Lake City Friday evening. The theme was “Standing on the Side of Love with Immigrant Families.”
Roman Catholic, Episcopal, and Unitarian Universalist leaders spoke against a new Utah law that will make undocumented immigrants significantly more vulnerable to deportation, but the rally focused especially on the impact of current immigration policies on families.
Larry Love, a leader in a Spanish-speaking Mormon congregation in Salt Lake, told the crowd how current immigration policies are affecting his family. Love’s wife, who immigrated to the U.S. from Guatemala sixteen years ago and applied for asylum three times, was arrested March 18 and is currently scheduled for deportation, even though she has three children who are U.S. citizens.
Love said that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents knocked on his door at 6:30 in the morning to show him a photograph of a Latina woman who, they said, was illegally registering cars to his address. When he told them he didn’t recognize the woman, the agents asked to talk to his wife. She also said she didn’t recognize the woman.
Then, Love said, the agents told her, “We’re not here to arrest this woman. We’re here to arrest you.”
After being allowed to kiss her children goodbye, Love’s wife was handcuffed and shackled in a van alongside several other people. After ICE agents learned that her husband was a U.S. citizen, she was released but required to wear an ankle bracelet while she awaits deportation.
Love emphasized the financial and emotional toll that current immigration policies inflict on families. He said their family depends on both parents’ incomes, and that his wife’s health insurance policy is significantly less expensive than the one available from his employer. Yet, although she has worked and paid Social Security taxes throughout her time in the U.S., and although being an undocumented alien is only a civil offense—“it’s like a speeding ticket, not like robbing a bank,” Love said—their family is about to be torn apart.
One of his wife’s children stood beside him as he spoke, but she did not attend. “She was afraid that the Minutemen would be here,” he said, or that media attention would endanger her job.
UUA President William G. Sinkford told the crowd, “We know that ICE raids are not the solution to this broken system. We could not deport 12 million people even if we wanted to.”
“We say, ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,’” Sinkford said, “but we know the Statue of Liberty has always faced east, toward Europe, not south.”
Sinkford called attention to the racism that “has blinded many Americans to what takes place in their own kitchens, workshops, and fields.”
“We must call for an immediate end to ICE raids and call for just and comprehensive immigration reform,” Sinkford said.
Volunteers with the UUA’s new “Standing on the Side of Love” campaign handed out postcards inviting people to pledge to stand on the side of immigrant families. The Rev. Dr. Laurel Hallman and the Rev. Peter Morales, candidates for the UUA presidency, helped hold a “Standing on the Side of Love” banner in the front of the podium at the rally.
The Rev. Thomas Goldsmith, minister of First Unitarian Church in Salt Lake City; Roman Catholic Bishop John Charles Wester; Episcopal Bishop Carolyn Tanner Irish; and the Rev. Pablo Ramos, the canon missioner of Latino ministry for the Episcopal Diocese of Utah, also spoke.
The Salt Lake Tribune reported on the rally on the front page of Saturday’s paper: “Interfaith rally brings spirituality into debate” (6.27.09). The Deseret News also reported on the event: “Religious groups show support for immigrants” (6.27.09).
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Christopher L. Walton is editor of UU World. He holds degrees from Harvard Divinity School and the University of Utah and is a member of the Church of the Larger Fellowship.