SanctuaryCongregation web


UUAA Immigration Action Coalition Background

The goal of the Immigration Action Coalition (IAC) is to discover opportunities for UUAA congregants who are concerned about immigration reform to actively work towards immigrant justice.  The group formed after being inspired by Caring for the Stranger service that recounted our congregation's history of housing and helping a sanctuary family from El Salvador in the 1990s. 

The IAC has worked on several outreach projects to help immigrants in Washtenaw County, and in 2017 began to focus on the local church sanctuary program and becoming a Sanctuary Congregation. In 2019 projects were brought to the congregation concerning asylum rather than sanctuary, so UUAA became involved in helping asylum seekers.

 butterflyButterfly Project - January, 2020

UUAA congregants are taking part in a local immigration awareness Butterfly Project. Tiles made for the Butterfly Project are placed in various locations in the Ann Arbor area. Follow this link to see the tiles and where to find them-- including a downloadable map of the tile locations.

The Butterfly Project of the Ann Arbor Jewish Sanctuary and Immigration Group aims to bring attention to the children and adults currently held in detention in the United States as a result of U.S. government actions. Through public art, the project intends to raise awareness of the on-going violations of basic human rights occurring in this country. Read more on the UUAA Butterfly Project page.

To find out about making your own tile email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


UUAA Asylum Seeker Bond- April, 2019

Joint Statement Regarding UUAA Offering Bond to an Asylum Seeker, Published April 21st, 2019

This past week, the First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Ann Arbor (UUAA) deepened our commitment to support those seeking asylum in the United States. On April 16th, UUAA, in collaboration with multiple justice seeking partners, helped provide bond for an individual from Honduras who was seeking asylum in the United States.

This individual, who identifies as queer, was fleeing violence in their home country and faced the prospect of being murdered if they returned to Honduras. After a long journey by foot and five months in federal detention, UUAA was able to help secure this individual’s release on bond.

Two days later, on April 18th, this individual had their formal immigration hearing, at which adjudication of their asylum claim occurred. Remarkably, with the case being decided by a fairly conservative federal judge, one with an 18% approval rate for asylum petitions, the individual we helped release on bond was approved for asylum in the United States. This individual can now begin building a new life in the U.S., and will eventually be able to petition to have their children join them here.

During a time in which we honor the spring season and the new life that it brings, we can all take pride in our UUAA commitment to justice. Together, we have helped an individual fleeing violence gain a new lease on life, and have helped give them the opportunity to build a future filled with renewed hope and possibility.

We thank the UUAA community for its deep and embodied commitment to justice – what a joy it is to help make this difference together!

On behalf of the UUAA leadership,
The Reverend Manish Mishra-Marzetti, Senior Minister
Mr. Erik Stalhandske, President, UUAA
Ms. Cheryl Valentine, Chair, UUAA Immigration Action Coalition

March 2019 Asylum Guest at UUAA

From March 11th to March 29th, 2019, UUAA housed an asylum-seeker. We do not post photos or personal information about her in order to protect her family members, who are still in danger.

This is a woman who was being pressured to join a gang and engage in illegal activity. When she refused, her seven-year-old son was murdered to pressure her. When she still refused, she was told she would also be killed. She fled and walked 2,000 miles to the U.S. where she was put into detention. Your generous contributions allowed us to bail her out of jail and house her at UUAA as a transition time that allowed her to pursue legal options and connect with family. She was able to leave us on March 29th to join members of her family in another state. Her asylum case has been transferred. She is excited about this next step, and we are all excited for her. As she starts to rebuild her life, we will continue our financial support for expenses such as healthcare and legal fees.

Thank you to everyone who volunteered time and skills and donated money. You gave her hope. While we may never know for sure, without you she might have been deported and killed. You helped save her life, and for this she is grateful beyond measure.


UUAA Asylum Statement Published March 10, 2019

Joint Statement Regarding UUAA Offering Bond and Residency to an Asylum Seeker

On Monday, March 11th the First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Ann Arbor will be actualizing our congregational commitment to immigration justice by posting bond and offering on-site residency to a Honduran asylum seeker. This young mother, who arrived in the United States in December with what the media has referred to as the ‘migrant caravan,’ has known profound violence and tragedy and has traveled a long way seeking safety. On the other side of that long journey, which has led this individual from Honduras to detention in Michigan, our community is ready, quite literally, to help save a human life.

Our posting of financial bond will allow this individual the opportunity to be released from detention, and begin the process of healing and finding hope, as well as mentally and logistically preparing for a formal asylum hearing.

The needed financial and logistical commitment on our part may be shorter or longer term, depending on the speed of the legal process, and we need our community to join together in generously making real the resources that are necessary for this important work. We know, at a minimum, that we need to fund the bond and pay for food, clothing, and other expenses. We also need volunteers who can companion and offer rides to this individual, especially Spanish speakers, as critical social and medical services are engaged.

To financially contribute, please follow this link and select “Sanctuary – Immigration Action Coalition” as the fund you are donating to. To volunteer time/energy/skills in support of this effort please email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

UUAA has an immense heart and an abiding, embodied commitment to justice. Thank you for being a part of, and helping create, the depth of that commitment, which form the seeds of the change that our world so desperately needs.

On behalf of the UUAA leadership,

The Reverend Manish Mishra-Marzetti, Senior Minister
Mr. Erik Stalhandske, President, UUAA Board of Trustees
Ms. Cheryl Valentine, Chair, UUAA Immigration Action Coalition
March 10, 2019



Washtenaw County Sanctuary Updates


Nov 4, 2018 University of Michigan Employee Enters Sanctuary at Ann Arbor Friends Center

Mohamed Soumah, a custodian at the University of Michigan, took sanctuary at the Ann Arbor Friends Meeting House in November, 2018. He is afraid that if he is deported back to West Africa he will die of the kidney disease that forces him to get regular dialysis treatments. The dialysis treatments in Guinea are expensive and unreliable. Soumah came to the U.S. in 2003, married a U.S. citizen and has two sons, ages 11 and 10. Since divorcing, he's had to get a yearly work visa, and for seven years, it had been approved until now. He was to be deported back to Guinea-Conakry in West Africa on Oct. 19, but he ended up in the hospital. His social worker called the Washtenaw County Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights and the Quakers offered him sanctuary. Soumah's recent appeal for a stay of removal was denied by ICE. He's asking for another but hasn't heard anything. Until he does, the Ann Arbor Friends Meeting House will be his home.

For more information on how you could be of help follow this link to the web site for the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice.

Or you can read the coverage by Michigan Radio with this link.


February 14, 2018 Press Conference

The Washtenaw Congregational Sanctuary campaign held a press conference on Wednesday, Feb. 14, to announce the most recent commitments from congregations supporting the sanctuary movement. The conference was held at UUAA and included statements from area ministers about their commitment to sanctuary. Links to press coverage are included below.

Read the coverage on

Which includes this video of Washtenaw County religious leaders speaking in support of the sanctuary movement:



Coverage by Michigan Radio.

Coverage by Fox 2 Detroit

Coverage by WDIV - ClickonDetroit  (Story is at about minute 26:00)


Our Path to Becoming a Sanctuary Congregation

On Sunday, October 22, 2017, our congregation voted to become a level 1 hosting sanctuary congregation, volunteering to shelter immigrants who receive deportation orders but need more time to get their status re-evaluated. The IAC worked with many other groups to plan for this program that puts our values in action.

The resolution reads:

We, the members of the First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Ann Arbor, believing in the worth and dignity of every person and the importance of compassion in human interactions, do hereby resolve to become a Sanctuary Congregation.

We are ready and willing to physically host an individual or family in imminent danger of unjust detainment and deportation until their legal options are carried out.

We will not do this work alone. We will join congregations across the country that have declared themselves Sanctuary Congregations, and will work with local congregations through Washtenaw Congregational Sanctuary to support, advocate for, and contribute to the safety and well-being of individuals or families in Washtenaw County who are invited into sanctuary.

(The resolution passed by 98% of the members who attended the October 22, 2017 Special Congregational Meeting.)


WashtenawSanctuaryThe Immigration Action Coalition partners with organizations already working in our community such as the Washtenaw Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights (WICIR), Casa Latina, and the Washtenaw ID Project.  If you are interested in joining us, please send your name and contact information to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  Co-Chairs of the Immigration Action Coalition are:  Cheryl Valentine, Vicki Echegoyen and Louise Kazarinoff

Sanctuary Background Information

To download or read a FAQ sheet about Sanctuary, click here


To listen to the Special Congregational Meeting held October 22nd, 2017 to vote on the sanctuary resolution:


To listen to the Town Hall Meeting held October 8, 2017, in preparation for the congregational vote on Sanctuary.

Click here for Part 1


Click here for Part 2




How our congregation prepared for becoming a Sanctuary Congregation:

  1. The UUAA Board of Trustees voted in March, 2017 to support becoming a sanctuary congregation and to bring the resolution to become a host congregation to a vote of the entire congregation.
  2. Working with Washtenaw Congregational Sanctuary. The UUAA Immigration Action Coalition (IAC) together with WICIR (Washtenaw Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights) and ICPJ (Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice) formed Washtenaw Congregational Sanctuary last January. WCS is an interfaith coalition pledged to support any congregation in Washtenaw County who takes in a sanctuary guest. UUAA members Cheryl Valentine, Ruth Cassidy, and Melanie Hagen are on the WCS Steering Committee. (
  3. Education. The IAC has spearheaded the efforts for UUAA to become a sanctuary congregation offering twenty educational opportunities in the past two years for our congregants to learn about immigration and sanctuary issues.
  4. Exploring impacts of sanctuary on UUAA. The UUAA Sanctuary Task Force (Rev. Doug Wadkins, Rev. Lindasusan Ulrich, Ed Lynn, Debby Casamatta, Laura Bolletino, and Cheryl Valentine) researched liability, legal and financial issues, located a workable and welcoming space (the Marley Room), talked with other sanctuary congregations, and discussed sanctuary with our staff.
  5. Preparing for emergencies. The Sanctuary Task Force prepared an emergency protocol so staff, volunteers, and sanctuary guests will know just what to do in case of an emergency.