Rick Beckel’s Testimony, Sunday, September 9, 2018

On the second Sunday of each month, we receive the morning offering in support of local organizations and to act both generously and responsively to needs as they arise in our wider community. Last Sunday, we received the offering in support of Community 2 Community (C2C) and the Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship (BUF), who are currently responding to the needs of immigrant families who were separated by an ICE raid earlier this month in Whatcom County, and to support those who are detained from this raid at the Immigration Detention Center in Tacoma. 

The following testimony was delivered by Rick Beckel of UUC’s Immigrant Justice Team. You can add your support to these families by sending in a check to the UUC office (made out to UUC, with “BUF/C2C” in the memo line, or by donating online (select “Living Justice Collection” fund and put “BUF/C2C” in the memo box) by September 20.

A couple weeks ago in Whatcom County, 28 people did not arrive home at the end of their work day. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detained dozens of undocumented workers in a raid connected to their employment at Granite Precast in Bellingham. Many are now imprisoned at the for-profit Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma.

Meanwhile, back in Whatcom County, families struggle to go on. Some of those detained have been here for decades. A child of one detainee has dropped out of school to help support his family. Another family won’t drive their car because it’s been linked to a detainee. An elementary student lost their one and only parent. Some can’t even attempt to pay bail because they do not have another adult citizen in the family.

Our plate collection today will go directly to the families who have been separated by this recent ICE raid. This campaign is organized by one of our sister congregations, Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship (BUF), in partnership with Community 2 Community Development. C2C is a grassroots organization that supports autonomous movements by marginalized communities, from farmworkers in the Skagit Valley, to immigrants imprisoned in the Northwest Detention Center. Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship has partnered with C2C for about ten years by participating in worker actions, providing logistical and financial support, and donating space for C2C to host events.

This partnership has been crucial in the rapid response to the current situation. C2C and BUF have created an organization led by the families of the detained that will allow the families to decide for themselves how money raised will be used–in this moment, mostly for basic necessities like food, shelter, and transportation to the Tacoma detention facility. Our plate collection will go to this organization and will fulfill the immediate needs of nearby families in crisis. Yet our contributions also have a long-term impact: in strengthening a longstanding partnership between a UU congregation and a grassroots social justice organization, we ensure that this work will continue for years to come.

Our congregation, too, has a long history of working with immigrant communities: our giving today is a continuation of work that we have been involved with for decades. Please stop by the Immigrant Justice Team table outside this room to hear about other ways you can you can support our congregation in this work.

Though it may be a bit unsettling for us have a homecoming service in an unfamiliar space, we are so fortunate to be able to continue coming together, despite our changing circumstances. As renovation of our building progresses, let us remember what we stand for – the worth and dignity of every person, justice, equity, and compassion in human relations. What are we building for, if not to ensure the preservation of these ideals? In a time of change and upheaval, let us listen to the most marginalized voices in our community, and respond with generosity, compassion, and solidarity.