Asylum Seeker Hosting Program Meeting, 8/23/2019

Asylum Seeker Hosting Program Meeting Minutes

8/23/19

People Present:  Diana Borrero-Lowe, Diane Schwabe, Sue Langley, Sarah Cox, Sharon BarlowPalm, Elizabeth Greene, Gary Wyke, Debra Smith, Wanda Jennings, Alan Herzfeld, Dunnia Aplicano, Les Bock, Mark Bussolini, Mary Steinbis, Debbie Johnson, Anne Marie Bussolini, Dick Knapp, Becky Groff, Rick Groff, Joan Williams, Cathy Sandstrom, Betty Van Gheluwe

Action Items from this Meeting:

  1. Les Bock will contact immigration lawyers to determine if they will work with the asylum seeker pro bono
  2. Sarah will write an informational piece; Dunnia will translate it into Spanish and send  to local communities to help with fundraising
  3. Gary Wyke and Diana Borrero-Lowe will usher at the August 25th BUUF service
  4. Diana Borrero-Lowe and Rev. Elizabeth Greene will facilitate 8/25 Question and Answer Session in the Channing Room after the church service
  5. Debra Smith and Wanda Jennings will staff the Asylum Seeker Hosting Program Information Table at the Sept. 21st Immigration Celebration Day at BUUF from 9:30am to 12:00 noon
  6. Peggy Lynne and Jeannie Peterson will staff the Asylum Seeker Hosting Program Information Table at the Sept. 21st Immigration Celebration Day at BUUF from 12:00 noon to 2:30pm
  7. Rev. Elizabeth Greene will represent the Asylum Seeker Hosting Program at the Healing Our Future Conference on August 25th

Meeting Notes:

  • Introductions were made, lighting of the chalice occurred and the agenda was reviewed.
  • Each team gave their initial action plan report.  The reports are as follows:
    • The Fundraising Team has sent out a pledge letter to the group of congregants who attended the first informational session.  With this pledge letter there has been $2500+ generated.  By working with Rachel at BUUF, pledges can be automatically withdrawn from your checking account or credit card.  Other fundraising avenues that are in the process of being developed:
      • Selling tomatoes and spices
      • Italian Dinner on Nov. 9th
      • Wine Tasting Party
      • Apply for the Auction Special Appeal Fund
      • Apply to be a Plate Partner (twice)
      • Writing grants that are offered from UUA
      • Presenting at the Healing our Future Conference on August 25th and Immigration Celebration Day! on Sept. 21st

Fundraising projects that the team is looking for groups to take on are:

  • Youth Service Projects
    • Flamingo Flocking

The team is also exploring:

  • On line pledging through the BUUF website
    • Matching funds
    • How to thank donors

The team recommends spreading the word by talking with friends and using social media.  They are working on having a visual fundraising barometer at the church to keep a continuous awareness with the congregation.  One suggestion was to have a wall of bricks, removing a brick each time we meet a financial milestone.  Dunnia volunteered to translate into Spanish an informational piece on the Asylum Seeker Hosting Program and send to local communities asking for funds.

  • The Financial Team has discussed with Rachel Strong how transactions will be recorded in the BUUF books, tracking expenditures and approval process for cutting checks.  Discussions have occurred with Tom Von Alten about his role regarding oversight and being able to explain to the Board how the monies will be shown on the books. The process to accept pledged income has been agreed upon with Rachel and communicated to the Fundraising Team.  Dick Knapp created budget scenarios that are being used to educate on potential costs.  Items that are being worked on are:
    • Monica will set up Google Drive for the Finance Team and add the budget spreadsheet to it
    • Sue will create “budget-to-actual” spreadsheet to track actual expenses compared to budget and communicate income needs to fundraising team
    • Need to determine how families’ monetary needs will be communicated to Sue.  What is the process to get the family/asylum seeker cash when they need to get groceries, for example?  How will they document their purchases so we maintain solid internal controls over the disbursements?
    • Once project starts, the financial team will set up regular meetings and/or a process to review the spreadsheets and documentation
  • The Family Support Team has contacted the volunteers who have expressed an interest in working on family support.  Each family support volunteer has been brought up to date on the progress of the Asylum Seeker Hosting Program and what the responsibilities are.  A volunteer assignment chart has been developed and filled in.  The team will develop a phone tree that can be implemented when a family support volunteer need arises.
  • The Community Outreach Team has received commitments from the Family Residency Program for assistance with medical, OB, counseling and pharmacy needs.  With their sliding fee scale a medical appointment would cost $10.00.  A private dentist has agreed to give initial dental assessments to the asylum seekers free of charge.  The Terry Reilly Health Services offers dental services on a sliding fee scale.  The Dept. of Labor will assist with employment coaching and job opportunities.  JANNUS services, as appropriate, will be available to the Asylum Seeker Hosting Program.  Rev. Elizabeth will be working with the Faith Groups in the community.  Legal service has been explored.  Once the asylum seeker is here IJI is willing to assess whether they would meet IJI’s criteria to offer legal services and at what cost.  Les will check to see if there are other local immigration attorneys that will work with us pro bono.  IJI sent email files describing the asylum seeker process which will be forwarded to the team.
  • Rev. Elizabeth has contacted the organizer of the Healing Our Future Conference and the Asylum Seeker Hosting Program will be announced at the conference.  Elizabeth will have flyers available.  Elizabeth and Sarah wrote an article on the Asylum Seeker Hosting Program for the Faith Section of the Idaho Statesman.  It was printed on August 18th.  A copy of the article was distributed at the meeting.
  • The Asylum Seeker Hosting Program Sips and Snacks Informational Event will be held on Wednesday Sept. 4th from 7-9pm.   An invitation has been sent to 40 people who have expressed an interest in finding out more information about the program.  We are limited to 20 people so Cathy will track the RSVPs and accept them on a first come first serve basis.
  • The following status report of the Asylum Seeker Hosting Program was distributed and reviewed. 

Asylum Seeker Hosting Program Phase 1 (Support Building) Tasks

June 2019 – September 2019

Milestone: By the end of September 2019 determine that there is enough interest among the congregation to move forward with the Asylum Seeker Hosting Program.

Steps Completed

  1. Met with the Coalition to discuss the Congregational Asylum Seeker Sponsorship Project
  2. Identify Co-Leaders
  3. Identify Core Team
  4. Held an initial informational meeting with members from BUUF
  5. Develop budgets
  6. Develop marketing materials
  7. Develop a program action plan for Phase 1
  8. Develop a communication action plan for Phase 1
  9. Identify a Legal Sponsor
  10. Identify housing
  11. Vetting of the legal sponsor by Rev. Dottie Mathews
  12. Vetting of the housing hosts by Dottie (3 families have been completed)
  13. Identify leaders for 4 Support Teams (Fundraising, Financial, Community and Family Support)
  14. Announce through the BUUF Thursday Bulletin, Order of Service, Newsletter
  15. Staffed an informational table after Sunday Service from June – August
  16. Sent informational email to BUUF database
  17. Held Q/A session after Sunday Service on Aug. 18th

Steps Being Worked On

  1. Post on Facebook
  2. Post on the BUUF Website
  3. Host an Asylum Seeker Hosting Program Informational Event on Sept. 4th from 7-9pm
  4. Hold Q/A Sessions after Sunday Service on Aug. 25th
  5. To determine congregation interest send out a survey to congregation – Open on Sept. 1st and Close on Sept. 14th
  6. Get agreement that there is enough congregation interest to move forward
  7. Information and Fundraising Table at the Immigration Celebration Day on Sept. 21st             

Targets/Goals

Before receiving an asylum seeker have the following completed or well underway:

  • Enough congregational interest is gained to move forward with the project
  • Legal Sponsor identified and vetted
  • Home identified and vetted
  • 25% of the first year’s budget pledged (app. $2300)
  • Community referrals confirmed
  • Family support volunteers identified

Summary of Zoom conference with Rev. Dottie Matthews on 8/22/2019:

  • A concern was expressed to Dottie Matthews, our asylum sponsorship project liaison that the “compa” terminology used in their literature may not be appropriate.  Dottie let us know this week that as she is going to be the UU liaison for asylum seeker hosting, the term “compa” terminology will be changed to “guest”.
  • Since the last meeting, a number of questions about the national Asylum Sponsorship Project process came forward so we had a meeting with Dottie, our liaison.  Due to time constraints at the 8/23 meeting, only one of the question’s responses was able to be discussed with a promise that the other responses would be distributed.  Those questions and responses are as follows:
  • Question:  What is the name of the interfaith group that Dottie represents? Who are the members of the group and what other faiths do they represent?  How are the groups connected?

Answer:  The name of the national coalition is the Asylum Sponsorship Project. The main groups that are connected by being part of this coalition are Showing Up for Racial Justice, Freedom for Immigrants, Innovation Law Lab.  This is not an interfaith group but there are a number of faith congregations from varying denominations that are sponsoring asylum seekers through the coalition. 

Dottie, who is our contact person with the Asylum Sponsorship Project, is a retired UU minister and volunteers with the coalition.   Since there are a number of UU congregations participating in asylum seeker hosting the UUA has decided to offer support directly to the UU congregations under the UU Service Committee with Dottie being the asylum seeker clergy representative. 

  • Question:  What is the process by which families are selected specifically:
  • Who is connecting with the asylum seekers?

Answer: There are organizations like RAICES, Santa Fe Dreamers that work directly on the border.  These groups are connecting with the asylum seekers.

  • Where are asylum seekers initially contacted?

Answer: Asylum seekers are usually contacted in the detention center. 

  • How is connection made with the asylum seeker?

Answer: This most often occurs when the asylum seeker is in detention.  The groups that work on the border have an existing detention visitation program.  Through this program they get to know the asylum seeker, their situation and needs.  They also follow up on referrals from the lawyers and others working with the asylum seekers.

  • How are asylum seekers selected for a host family?

Answer: The needs of the asylum seeker are matched with information that was received during the vetting process for the hosting family.  Also prioritization of urgent situations is factored in. 

  • Do asylum seekers have to pay the group in order to be selected?

Answer:  No

  • Question: Has our legal sponsor been vetted by ICE?

Answer: ICE and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have a few specific requirements of sponsors (which include: a fixed address where they can demonstrate they have resided for a significant period of time; ability to provide asylum seeker with a safe comfortable place to sleep; and ability/financial means to provide asylum seeker with basic necessities such as food, occasional transportation, items of clothing, etc.)  Sponsors must have current legal immigration status in the US (US citizen or legal permanent resident). Sponsors are also expected to receive mail on behalf of the asylum seeker regarding court dates and other legal proceedings.   The ICE vetting process for the legal sponsor occurs when there is potential match and is completed via paperwork.   In addition, the government agents at the border determine that the asylum seeker is neither a threat to society nor a flight risk before they allow a match with a legal sponsor.

  • Question: The FAQ mentions an on-line network and Google group of all communities hosting or waiting to host an asylum seeker.  Do we have access to this network or group now?

Answer:  When there is a match there is an on-line group of individuals who are hosting.  Dottie though, is in the process of connecting us with other UU congregations currently in the process of hosting an asylum seeker.

  • Question: The FAQ says that asylum seekers in detention must receive “parole” or pay “bond” in order to be released from detention.  Since these folks are legally seeking asylum, what do “parole” and “bond” mean in this situation?

Answer: The government is viewing asylum seekers as being part of the criminal system even though asylum seeking is a legal process.

  • Question: If ‘bond” must be posted, how much is it usually and who pays it?  Is the money refunded once the asylum seeker is granted asylum?

Answer: In the cases that a bond must be posted, it is usually around $1500.  It is not encouraged that the congregation pays for this.  There have been a number of groups that have sprung up throughout the US for this purpose.  Dottie wasn’t sure what amount of the bond money is reimbursed when all of the court dates are adhered to.  Further investigation on an organization that will post a bond will need to be looked into further.

  • The next meeting is scheduled for Monday September 16th at 4:30pm at BUUF.