Immigrant Justice: Either/Or

One of my goals for the UUANH website as the new Executive Director was to try and keep any and all interested parties updated through our blog as to what we are doing.

This may not seem that ambitious, but when you only work 15 hours a week at a job, pretty much any additional task that you set yourself is ambitious. In short, time forces you to make either/or decisions.

The reality of how we can only ever be in one particular place at one particular time hit home with me today. For today I’m in Spokane Washington so that I can participate in the gathering of the Coalition of Unitarian Universalist State Action Networks tomorrow. That means that I am not in either

Today I felt the need to be in either of those places because of the horrid news about immigration and the American population’s equally horrid response.

For those who may not know, there have been further reports about the dire, tragic and morally abominable treatment of immigrants and refugees by the US government. As the father of a 13-month-old, the story that stays in my mind the most is of a child, Constantin, whom US officials separated from his family when he was only four months old. He then spent the majority of his life separated from his parents.

There have also been reports of more immigrants dying while they were in detention.

The response of both government officials, journalists and others with public platforms has been disappointing. Rather than proposing how to stop these horrors, or asking how to stop these horrors, the chattering classes have instead debate the question of whether not these horrors mean that immigrants and refugees are detained in concentration camps.

Are government officials separating families, detaining children, housing hundreds of immigrants in facilities meant for only scores of people, are these officials guards of concentration camps? Or are they guards merely for detention facilities? Or internment camps?

We Unitarian Universalists know that questions have power. We love questions so much that we even make this part of our identity: there is a bumper sticker that says “Unitarian Universalism: where your answers are questioned.”

Unsurprisingly, such a people are happy to answer a question with a question.And so my question to the question of “Are these concentration camps” is, “What are you doing to prevent us from living in a world in which the US federal government funds, supervises and creates concentration camps?” For either we will live in a world in which historians, politicians and Jewish commentators will compare our government’s treatment to immigrants to concentration camps, or we will not.

Please call your federal delegation – Senators Shaheen and Hassan, Congressional Representatives Kuster and Pappas – , to let them know that you disapprove. Consider joining us at a vigil at the Federal Building or for the Immigrant Solidarity walk.

In my first month as UUANH Executive Director, I know that many people are across the state are working to ensure that we do not live in world with concentration camps for immigrants. The NH Immigrant Solidarity Network convenes interfaith vigils for all immigrants who have to check in with ICE. We are also planning a longer solidarity walk in August, one that is planned to include walkers from Vermont, Maine and Massachusetts. Furthermore, UUs and other people of faith in NH provide direct service for immigrants and refugees, whether helping them navigate the government’s byzantine system or simply providing a place to live.

People in New Hampshire also work on new laws that make our state more welcoming to the immigrants who already live here. This work includes HB 397, which would allow people who do not have social security numbers to get drivers licenses in New Hampshire.

The Legislative Session this year ended without this bill being tabled. We are committed to seeing it enacted into law.

Things can change for the worse. Or for the better.

This week, ΝΥ state voted to allow drivers licenses for all, regardless of immigration status. If NY state can do it, so can we.

As mere humans with limited capabilities, we can either do one thing or another.

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