Asylum Seeker Hosting Program Meeting, 10/3/19

People Present:  Diane Schwabe, Sarah Cox, Sharon BarlowPalm, Elizabeth Greene, Gary Wyke, Wanda Jennings, Bryan Jennings, Rev. Sara LaWall, Blanca Gerard, Mark Bussolini, Mary Steinbis, Debbie Johnson, Cathy Sandstrom, Betty Van Gheluwe

Action Items from this Meeting:

  1. Cathy will contact Dottie Mathews and let her know that BUUF is ready to move forward with sponsorship of an asylum seeker
  2. Sarah will write an announcement to the congregation that we are moving forward with sponsoring an asylum seeker and Rev. Sara will distribute to the congregation.
  3. The Fundraising Team will organize the Nov. 9th Italian Fundraising Dinner.
  4. Betty will send the blog of the Asylum Seeker Host Family to the people at the meeting.
  5. Betty will set up the Zoom call with Dottie Mathews and send her the questions of the core team.
  6. Mark your calendars for the Nov. 7th Zoom call with Dottie Mathews, BUUF liaison with the Asylum Seeker Sponsorship Project and the UU Service Committee.  This call will be at 5:30pm at BUUF. Bring your questions.
  • Cathy opened the meeting with lighting of the chalice and opening words.  The agenda was reviewed. 
  • In determining the BUUF congregation support, the results from both the sign-up sheets throughout the summer and the Asylum Seeker Hosting Program Interest Survey were reviewed.  The results are as follows:
    • There were 96% (94 out of 98 responses) who said we should move forward with the Asylum Seeker Hosting Program
    • 67% of the people responding to the survey stated that they could support the program with a financial pledge.  These monthly pledges total over $5,000
    • 73% of the people responding to the survey stated that they could support the program with their time
  • There were 6 goals that the core team identified as needing to be met before moving forward with the asylum seeker hosting program.  They are:
    • Enough congregational interest to move forward with the project.  The measurement is that  during the communication phase we will hear from no less than 50 congregants and from the people we hear from there will be at least 75% of them that agree we should move forward with the Asylum Seeker Hosting Program
    • Legal sponsor identified and vetted
    • Homes identified and vetted
    • $2300 pledged
    • Community referrals confirmed
    • Family support volunteers identified
  • With all of these goals having been met, the team agreed to move forward with sponsoring an asylum seeker. With this decision being made the following will occur:
    •  Cathy will contact our liaison Dottie Mathews and let her know that we are ready to be a sponsor.
    • Sarah will write this announcement for the congregation and Rev. Sara will distribute to the congregation.
    • We will celebrate completing this initial phase of the program at the Italian Fundraising dinner on Nov. 9th.
    • When the asylum seeker is matched we will have another celebration which will probably be larger in scope.
  • Cathy, Sarah and Betty reported on a call with Dottie Mathews and two other families from UU congregations who are currently hosting asylum seekers.  One family is from Minnesota and the other family is from Des Moines.  Some of the items discussed were:
    • What is currently happening on the border; it is still unclear what impact Trump’s asylum ban will have.
    • Different housing options
    • Employment Authorization Process
    • Legal Counsel
    • Welcoming the asylum seeker
    • Budgets

The family from Des Moines has completed a blog about their experience for their church newsletter.  Betty will send the link to this blog to the people at the meeting.

  • The core team agreed to have a Zoom call with the Dottie Mathews (BUUF liaison with the Asylum Seeker Sponsorship Project and the UU Service Committee) on Nov. 7th at 5:30pm. Please mark your calendars.
  • The questions the team brainstormed for this meeting are:
    • What is the latest update of what is happening at the border i.e. are there asylum seekers that are eligible to come into the country?
    • Why does it take so long to get the asylum application started?
    • If we are able to sponsor an asylum seeker what happens if they are rejected for asylum?
    • What is the reporting responsibility of the hosting family to ICE if the asylum seeker  goes underground and doesn’t follow through with the asylum process or asylum decision?
    • What does the asylum seeker typically do when they are here but aren’t able to work?
    • How fragile or traumatized is the asylum seeker when he/she arrives?
    • Does the asylum seeker receive any counseling before they come to the host family?
    • What type of counseling may the asylum seeker and host family need?
    • How much notice will BUUF have before an asylum seeker comes?
    • What can we do for an asylum seeker that we are matched with while they are in detention?
    • Can an asylum seeker legally fly?
    • What is the process for an asylum seeker to travel to the host family?

Bring your other questions to the meeting. 

  • Announcements from the support teams are:
    • Alan from the Community Outreach Team has been trying to contact Kathy Railsback for legal counsel but unfortunately hasn’t been successful.  The team will continue to explore various possibilities for legal counsel.
    • Elizabeth Greene presented at the Immigration Celebration Day! about the Asylum Seeker Hosting Program. She is also scheduled to make a presentation at Church Women United.
    • The Family Support Team has 20 volunteers committed to fulfilling specific responsibilities when the asylum seeker arrives.  There are 4 other volunteers considering how they can help.
    • Prior to the interest survey, the Fundraising Team had $5700+ pledged/donated.  They have also submitted a grant for $8000 to the UU Funding Program.
  • Cathy closed the meeting with closing words and extinguishing the chalice.
  • The next meeting of the Asylum Seeker Hosting Project is the ZOOM call with Dottie on November 7 at 5:30 pm at BUUF.