Our Grounding

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Our values are our touchstone: they enliven and shape the work that we do. Grounded in the Principles of Unitarian Universalism, we operate with integrity, compassion and accountability.

In service of our clients and impacted communities, we foster an organizational culture that celebrates equity and diversity, striving for collective liberation, where we bring our whole selves to our work. Our values and how we put them into action are what make us unique and essential in the field of immigration legal services and advocacy.

Our values

  • The Unitarian Universalist Principles
  • Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Access 
  • Collective Liberation
  • Integrity and Honesty

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The Unitarian Universalist Principles

UURISE was founded by Unitarian Universalists, and who we are is informed by the Seven Principles of Unitarian Universalism

As an organization, we were early adopters of the proposed 8th Principle, in which we commit to “affirm and promote: journeying toward spiritual wholeness by working to build a diverse multicultural Beloved Community by our actions that accountably dismantle racism and other oppressions in ourselves and our institutions.” Read more about the 8th Principle of Unitarian Universalism at https://www.8thprincipleuu.org/

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Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Access

At UURISE, we actively build diversity, equity, inclusion, and access into our organizational culture. 

  • We prioritize hiring and internships from the communities that we serve.
  • We employ a flat hierarchy: we are a team–we foster trust, transparency, and self empowerment.
  • We value lived experiences: among our team and with partner organizations and clients, we listen, honoring the truth of people’s stories and experiences.
  • We approach each client’s case with a service mindset; our expertise and experience are tools to craft a process that is shaped to their needs and abilities.

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Collective Liberation

We understand ourselves to be interconnected with our partner organizations and clients. We strive to transform the transactional nature of legal service work into a relational model through compassion, empathy, collaboration, and the fundamental value of belonging that is at the heart of immigration work. We know that until everyone is free, none of us are free.

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Integrity and Honesty

Bringing our whole selves to our work means that we bring our most creative ideas and our passion, and also that we seek understanding when things don’t go as well as we planned. We are accountable to the communities we serve. We listen and adapt our practices when we can do better. We foster a culture of feedback and curiosity, where integrity and honesty are valued over perfection.

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Transparency Within The Team

Because UURISE is structured as a flat hierarchy, we make decisions together, rather than having power and decision-making held by one or two people at the top of the organization. We have the legally required structure of a CEO and Board of Directors, and we have adapted those roles to work in our organizational culture. What this looks like:

  • Part-time staff, full-time staff, paraprofessional volunteers, and CEO are all members of the team.
  • Every member of the team has an equally weighted vote when we make team decisions.
  • Every team member gets the same benefits based on the hours they work.
  • The Board and the team operate with mutual respect and a commitment to radical equity. We make big decisions together.

Transparency With the Wider Community

We pride ourselves on our fiscal responsibility and stewardship of the funds we receive. You can view our Guidestar profile for more information.

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Our Approach

UURISE approaches our work in ways that align with our values.

People are at the center, and we prioritize historically marginalized and impacted voices. Our expertise and processes are leveraged in service of safety, opportunity, access to resources, and justice for our clients.

Our approach with faith communities is aimed at multiplying our impact by co-creating programs that effectively serve immigrants. We help congregations to build wholehearted, deeply meaningful programs that align with our shared values.

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Trauma informed

UURISE operates from a trauma-informed perspective, and we work with experts in the field to train and develop our skills and processes.

We employ evidence-based best practices to create safety and build trust. At UURISE, being trauma-informed means that we integrate knowledge and understandings of trauma into the way services are delivered to reduce re-traumatization. We widen our lens from the client’s trauma to employ a strengths-based perspective, seeing what individual strengths and community resources already exist to understand clients in light of their capacities rather than their limitations.

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Fostering self empowerment

At UURISE, our expertise and experience serve the goals and needs of our clients.

We want people to be empowered in the process of working with us toward greater safety, security and opportunities. 

We provide the information and options and our clients decide if and how to proceed at every decision point. 

To the extent that it is possible, we give our clients tools that they can update whenever they wish, like the Emergency Safety Planning for Immigrants (ESPI) tool.

Clients are active partners in their case.

This means that we are constantly talking through what we’re doing, and collaborating with them on next steps. We want the process to be as understandable and transparent as possible. This also means that when we determine there isn’t a pathway to an immigration benefit, we make sure the client knows why, and what would need to change in the law for them to be eligible–in part, this helps to protect them later from fraudulent services.       

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Welcoming and celebrating

We are honored to serve the LGBTQ+ community with intentionality and care.

We know that members of the LGBTQ+ community are often at greater risk in their native countries and in the U.S. immigration system. We also know that, in particular, trans*, non-binary, and others whose identities fall outside the traditional gender binary, may be met with ignorance, inappropriate questions or comments, and unkindness when they are seeking professional services.  At UURISE, we work hard to create safety and welcome for every client we serve.

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Anti-racist and anti-oppressive

Systemic racial prejudice and other oppressions have always motivated, informed, and fueled U.S. immigration laws, policies and enforcement, as well as public sentiment. Disrupting and dismantling systems of oppression is part of the work that we consider ours to do as an agency.

For UURISE, this means we engage in outward advocacy and internal action. 

Outward advocacy

Our outward advocacy includes showing up with and for impacted communities in the public sphere, leveraging our privilege to amplify their voices, and taking action to impact public policy that benefits and protects immigrants and refugees. 

With faith communities, we begin with a discernment process that invites reflection, learning, and growth. We help congregations bring their passion and commitment to their immigration work effectively and appropriately by helping them develop a collective liberation analysis that addresses white supremacy culture and privilege directly. 

With congregations

We begin our work with faith communities with a discernment process that invites reflection, learning, and growth. A central purpose is to address white supremacy culture and privilege directly. We want congregations to bring their passion and commitment to their immigration work, and we help them to do that effectively and appropriately by helping them develop a collective liberation analysis.

This means moving away from a savior mindset and toward a relationship mindset where we cultivate humility; it means moving away from assuming we are experts and toward listening and trusting impacted communities; it means moving away from reinventing the wheel and toward partnering with the people in their communities already doing the work.

This process is intended to do more than train a group of people in how to help clients fill out legal paperwork; it is intended to create radically welcoming, resilient, relational spaces that serve our congregations and their wider communities far beyond the immigration work that might be their initial goal. 

Internal action

The internal action piece includes team members reflecting honestly about their own privilege, as well as the biases they experience in the work that we do. We engage in conversations and learning that are intended to prevent further harm, and we strive for nimbleness as an organization that allows us to adjust our language and practices as we learn and grow. 

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Organizational partnerships

We know that relationships amplify our reach and deepen our impact.

Relationships allow us and our partner organizations to specialize while being able to access one another’s strengths and skill sets. We build and nurture relationships with organizations of all kinds–government agencies and elected officials, immigrant-led grassroots and professional organizations, religious organizations and congregations, and other legal service providers. These connections are an essential part of our success, allowing all of us to leverage expertise and strengths. We are deeply grateful for all of our community partners. 

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Thank you to Mrfa Studio, Desiree Bolivar, Nithinan Tatah, Justin Black, Darwis and Design Circle for contributing artwork to the Noun Project used on our Grounding page.