Sanctuary tour: Phoenix with Misael at Shadow Rock UCC

After a sad goodbye with Arturo, Ana, and the team at First Unitarian Society of Denver, we headed off to Phoenix to visit Misael Cabrera at Shadow Rock UCC!

Misael is originally from Guatemala and worked as a roofer in Phoenix for 9 years. He entered into deportation after police in Phoenix pulled him over and turned him in to ICE for deportation. Misael described deplorable conditions in the prison where he was incarcerated for 15 years. The prison is called “the tents” because it is just that – a big tent without beds, where all the inmates sleep on the floor and are given food only once a day, and the toilet is in the same open room. It sounds very similar to the private prison facility for immigrant detainees in Texas where inmates recently rioted because of the terrible conditions.

Misael decided to take Sanctuary after losing his case and receiving a final order of deportation. His cousin in Guatemala was recently tortured and murdered, so his potential deportation is not just about returning him to Guatemala: it’s a matter of life and death.

Misael is a wonderful musician who plays piano and sings in both church services. He sang with us, played piano, and bass and (pretty unsuccessfully!) tried to teach us how to play simple chords on the piano in his room. Misael is deeply religious and frequently reads his Bible in his bedroom in Sanctuary. Check out this video of Angela and Misael singing together! 

Shadow Rock UCC is a beautiful church settled against the mountains of Phoenix. Misael has entered into Sanctuary the day before Angela, on November 17, 2014, and has been fighting his case from Sanctuary for three months. The love  and deep care between Misael and the Shadow Rock community was immediately evident. Shadow Rock is a UCC church who’s tagline “You are welcome” is lived out in practice with their Sanctuary campaign. Misael is Pentecostal and with the help of Pastor Ken at Shadow Rock has started a Latin American Pentecostal church that uses the Shadow Rock facilities every Sunday! They were planning a baptism and shared meal between the UCC and Pentecostal church that coming Sunday.

After spending a day together sharing experiences, singing, laughing, and building a strong relationship, Angela, Manrique, and Nicole held a workshop for immigrant justice supporters at Shadow Rock. We talked about how we organized our Sanctuary organizing committee, strategies for receiving petition signatures, and how to do a letter writing campaign. The team at Shadow Rock has so much commitment and energy – they immediately started dividing up tasks with the ambitious goal of getting 2,000 petition signatures and 500 support letters in the next two weeks!

Misael and his team need to get to 2,000 signatures on his petition before the week of March 9. Can you sign Misael’s petition to keep him home with his church family? 

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Immigrant led Community Organizing

Our staff manages our campaigns and programs while our members join our working committees to inform our programming, choose our campaigns, and plan our strategies to win. Through conversation and listening, our members and the community on the ground are the ones directing the organization. When people reach out to NSM, they connect with someone who speaks their language, looks like them, and is committed to empowering immigrant communities because they understand their journey and struggle. At NSM, our communities see their peers guiding our mission, creating trust, and allowing members to recognize NSM as an immigrant-led organization.
NSM works to lift the skills of the affected community and dismantle systems of oppression while promoting systems of mutual support, collective liberation, and respect for all people, which is why we provide interpretation services, respect childcare needs, schedule our sessions during times that work best for members who work multiple jobs or cannot meet in person, and allow members to inform us about their individual needs before meetings.
The community leads our work at every level to eliminate unnecessary barriers and meet the varied needs of our members.

Leadership Development

Our Leadership Development Program is a step in recruiting and training new leaders and training. The program blends the skills and experiences members bring from their home countries with NSM’s signature faith-rooted and anti-racist organizing model.

We have curricula for each level of membership, which includes workshops on the history of detention, community organizing, nonviolent protest, campaign strategy, and ongoing anti-racism training. Our programming encourages immigrant leaders to find their voice, understand the power of collective resistance, and join a community of immigrant leaders fighting for transformational systemic changes rooted in social and economic justice.

Leading this initiative is Bertha Murcia, one of NSM's Community Organizers. She is an alumna of NSM’s Promotoras de Justicia immigrant leadership program and oversees member engagement.

Build Community Power

NSM’s organizing efforts emphasize community building, inviting people to new roles, deepening Black and Brown solidarity, long-term leadership development, and impactful campaigns.

We build a base of people from our 33 congregations and Accompaniment Team and direct that people-power to fight specific campaigns. Staff members work with immigrant members to choose our campaigns, guide our strategies, lead events, and ensure our work is focused on meeting the needs of Philadelphia’s various immigrant communities.

Having a hands-on role in changing policy allows our members to gain a sense of empowerment, confidence, and self-respect. Empowering immigrants of color to organize collectively is part of NSM’s long haul work to create a people-powered movement for immigrant justice.