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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)


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.

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.