Reports from the Annual Congregational Meeting 2/23/2020

Report on Immigration


Sue Sherwood

The mission of the Pinellas Coalition for Immigration Justice is to advocate that all people who approach our borders receive compassionate, just and dignified treatment, whether asylum seekers, refugees, or those in search of a better life.

I am the representative on the Coalition from Lakewood United Church of Christ.  Also participating in the coalition have been Patti Cooksey, Lucille Ruga, and Carol Shores.  Coalition updates/info are posted on bulletin bd.  You can also learn more on Facebook at Pinellas Coalition for Immigration Justice OR Witness at the Border.

In the 6 months we have been part of the Coalition, it has grown from 7 to 14 member organizations and its outreach has adapted to meet the ongoing changes in U.S. immigration policy and enforcement. 

The Coalition began with 4 “action lanes”:

         1) The Flores Agreement (which lists & assures rights of detained youth)

         2) Legislative Accountability

         3) Children/youth Detained at Homestead, FL, Facility

         4) Research of Complicit Companies in Detention

With the closing of Homestead, we are adding a fifth:

         5) Witness at the Border


         1) July 2019: “Lights for Liberty” (held at Allendale UMC) – 350 people gathered to hear the voices of children detained behind the detention center fences, leaders of local justice groups, & Rep. Crist – sing & light candles & tie ribbons on a chain link fence with msgs for the children – learn how to take action in the 4 action lanes.

         2) Sept – Nov: Legislative Accountability

                  a) 5 of us raised issues of accountability at Rep. Crist’s Town Hall Mtg. in Largo in September.  And he took action: 1) He hired someone in his DC office to focus on immigration. 2) As a member of House Appropriations Committee, he wrote to the Sec. of Health & Human Services, requesting the required financial statements that had not been submitted by contracted companies, holding them accountable, especially when we were paying over $700/day for an empty bed when the children were taken away during the night. 3) He demanded to know where the Homestead children went and got answers.  4) Homestead was suddenly  closed permanently.  5) He learned more about the Flores rights for youth.

                  b) Some of us met with a representative from Sen. Rubio’s office in October re immigration, and others protested at his Tampa office.  Letters from the Coalition were also sent to Reps and Sens.  We did not see direct results from some but wanted them to know we are aware of the status of refugees/asylum seekers and have not forgotten.

                  c) LUCC and many of the groups participated in a post card campaign to our elected officials, letting them know we have not forgotten about the treatment of children and seekers at the border – urging that all for-profit detention centers be closed and that the Flores Agreement protecting children’s rights be enforced – with healthcare, exercise, education, counseling, etc.  LUCC provided stamped post cards & made address labels for use before/after church services.

         3) Dec. – Jan. – Hosted “Witness at Tornillo,” Josh Rubin’s film documentary, at the Tampa Theater, followed by a panel discussion.  This film on “the subversive act of seeing” was so inspirational that 5 from our area joined 150 others in Brownsville, TX, and Metamoros, MX, in Jan. to serve as witnesses, bring clothes & supplies, help in the food kitchens on both sides of the border, and protest the “MPP” (Migrant Protection Protocols) that force children & families back into dangerous situations in Mexico.  We want the government and those being held to know that the American people have not forgotten them!  Currently only 11 out of 10,000 are granted asylum (.1%).

Upcoming Events/Action

         1) Campaign to have more people go to Brownsville as witnesses and for our organizations to raise funds for Team Brownsville and the humanitarian work being performed by volunteers.  A power point presentation is being developed to be shared by member organizations and the community.

         2) Post card writing: urging the passage of the “Refugee Protection Act,” pending in both houses of Congress (SB2936 and HR 5210).  These bills have 40 co-signers, none of whom are Rep. Crist or Bilirakis or Sen. Rubio or Scott.

         3) People needed to serve as “champions,” trained to speak to large or small groups to encourage them to fill out the census forms, which are online and confidential and do NOT include a question on citizenship.

         4) March 20, Temple Beth-El: “Witnessing: A Growing Movement for Social Justice.”  This is the National Refugee Day for Jewish communities around the country.  Two from the Coalition and a refugee from five African countries will speak during the Shabot service (7:30-8:30 pm) and food and discussion will followafter the service.  The Coalition will have a table there.

Operation Attack Repot


Jim Andrews

Operation Attack is very much in need of boy’s coats, socks and underwear, diapers, teen clothes for boys/girls, canned food, and peanut butter

Donations may be placed in the shopping cart in the entryway to the sanctuary. Volunteer dates are evenings on March 9, April 13, and May 11. They also need people to help on the first three Tuesdays of the month from 9:30-noon.

Operation Attack is an ecumenical effort serving families with children located at Lakeview Presbyterian Church, 1310 22nd. Ave. S., St. Petersburg. LUCC was a founding member of Operation Attack in the 1960’s!

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