Because of positive response to recent educational events concerning how to support asylum seekers, the Board of Mission Peak UU Congregation is calling a special congregational meeting after the service on October 27, 2019 (11:30AM) in Cole Hall to consider taking collective action. Specifically, the Board is bringing before the congregation a motion to
“Adopt as a Congregational project the support of and intended hosting and/or accompaniment of one or more persons seeking asylum in the United States; budget $1,000 from the Growth Fund as an addition to the Congregational budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year; authorize receipt of additional donations from members, including at a designated share-the-plate Sunday, to the budget line; and authorize the Board to provide for the organization of this effort by assigning specific responsibilities to existing committees or by chartering a new committee. The Board and committee(s) involved in this effort will report to the Congregation from time to time.”
We would like very much for as many members of the Congregation as possible to attend, express their views, and vote on this motion.
What might this congregational project look like?
If MPUUC adopts this project, we will likely work with Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity’s Nueva Esperanza Accompaniment Team (NEAT) program. In the NEAT model, a team of five people from a congregation form an “accompaniment team” that commits to “walk alongside” an asylum seeker or family of asylum seekers for six months, with the goal that after six months the asylum seeker(s) reach some level of independence and the accompaniment team can move on to work with another asylum seeker or family.
In the NEAT model, while the accompaniment team supports the asylum seeker(s), the congregation supports the accompaniment team.
What does accompaniment look like? The accompaniment team may help the asylum seeker(s) find a lawyer, accompany them to stressful ICE check-ins and court dates, help them learn the public transit system, help them get connected to local food pantries and other resources, help them sign up for health insurance and get to doctor’s appointments, help sign kids up for school, and help adults find work, among other tasks.
What does congregational support look like? In addition to providing a welcoming community for the asylum seeker or family, congregations may provide space for events (e.g., meetings, fundraisers, celebrations), pastoral care (e.g., occasional home-cooked meals, rides, or childcare), and varying levels of financial support.
NEAT typically matches accompaniment teams with asylum seeker(s) who do not have familial support within the United States but do already have housing. Alternatively, if a member or friend of a congregation provides housing to one or more asylum seekers, and members or friends of the same congregation form an accompaniment team to support them, NEAT may agree to act as a facilitator after vetting the asylum seeker(s) and accompaniment team. To qualify to form an accompaniment team though NEAT, at least five people must attend a three-hour training session. One of these sessions was offered this past October 6, and another will be held on November 3.
At this time:
- One family in the MPUU Congregation is seriously considering the possibility of providing housing to an asylum seeker
- Seven members and friends of MPUUC have already attended the 3-hour NEAT training session required to qualify as an accompaniment team
- Five other members and friends of MPUUC are tentatively planning to attend the equivalent upcoming November 3 NEAT training session
- Numerous members and friends of MPUUC have expressed interest in volunteering in a more limited capacity to support this project
- A few members of MPUUC have expressed some reservations about the project
If at least ten people have attended the NEAT training by November 3, we will have the potential to form two accompaniment teams. The MPUUC accompaniment team(s) will prioritize commitment to asylum seeker(s) housed within our own congregation, but if we have two accompaniment teams trained by November 3, we will likely move forward with NEAT to match one of the two accompaniment teams with an asylum seeker or family of asylum seekers who already have housing outside MPUUC. We will ask NEAT to match us with people living in Fremont or a nearby town . The second team will work with the potential housing hosts in the MPUU Congregation to determine if they should wait for one or more asylum seekers to be housed within MPUUC or move forward to be matched through NEAT with a family hosted outside MPUUC.
If you are a Mission Peak UU member and need an absentee ballot please email email@example.com to make arrangements.