interfaith service being led by Sikh faith leaders

Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice (IMIrJ) held an interfaith service outside Sheridan Federal Prison on where 123 asylum seekers are being held without access to legal representation and pastoral care. Christian and Sikh faith communities came together for prayer, music, and bearing witness, followed by a communal meal provided by the Sikh community. Sheridan, Oregon on June 24, 2018 photo credit: Kathleen Connell Edge

On November 12, 2018 MRG’s grant making committee approved second year grants totaling $139,000 to 13 organizations. The grants are for general support for the second year of MRG’s two-year commitment for general support.  One of the grantees, Sarah Loose, Senior Lead Organizer with Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice (IMIrJ) said “MRG’s support allows IMIrJ to accompany people and communities of faith across the state as they step outside of their comfort zones and take bold, courageous action in support of immigrant justice, rooted in love.”

The work of IMIrJ provide us a good snapshot of the exciting work that each of the 13 groups are doing on a wide range of issues and constituencies.  One story from IMIrJ shows the power of bringing multiple organizations together, each playing to their own strength, to bring about change.  Readers may recall the “zero tolerance” policy of arresting and detaining any asylum seeker coming to the U.S. without documentation that was put in place by the Trump Administration this fall.  As a result, 1600 people were sent to federal prisons. They had no legal counsel, translators, or other ways to provide for the basic needs of asylum seekers. About 120 men, some of whom were separated from their families at the board, were sent to the federal prison in Sheridan, Oregon.  IMIrJ worked with MRG grantees like Unidos Bridging Community (CBI grantee), ROP and APANO (Democracy and Rights grantees) , allies at Innovation Law Lab, Portland Immigrant Rights Coalition, and ACLU among others to organize regular rallies and interfaith “Services of Solidarity” over three months.

The largest of these services brought upwards of 700 people outside the prison fence to witness, challenge, and call for change.  IMIrJ also organized a press conference with 50 faith leaders demanding an end to family separation and more humane immigration policies. These are just a few examples, among dozens, that IMIrJ has organized from Sheridan to The Dalles to bring people of faith together for immigrant justice.  “Given the complicated history of religious community, many social justice-oriented granting organizations have written off faith communities. And oftentimes religious bodies are hesitant to fund social movement work. MRG, however, sees organizing diverse faith communities as a valuable part of Oregon’s justice landscape,” said Sarah. As of November 30, the final two detainees were released from the prison. IMIrJ and the other groups in this story are working with them through their applications for asylum, coordinating housing and other basic needs while working on the systemic changes that put people in such deplorable conditions in the first place.

MRG looks forward to sharing additional stories from other grantees in the near future.

Congratulations to each of the fall 2018 grantees:

  • 350 PDX
  • Human Dignity Coalition
  • Bandon Community Radio
  • Civil Liberties Defense Center
  • Community Alliance of Lane County
  • Huerto de la Familia
  • Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice
  • NOWIA Unete Center for Farmworker Advocacy
  • KSKQ Radio
  • PassinArt: A Theatre Company
  • Portland All Nations Canoe Family
  • Portland Jobs with Justice
  • Uhuru Sa Sa Culture Club

This grant list is only possible because of the generous donations of people like you.  If this inspires you to give to MRG for future grants, you can click here to donate. Thank you.