Preparing for debate: ‘We’re all Arizona’
“We are all Arizona,” said the Rev. Victoria Safford, minister of White Bear UU Church in Mahotmedi, Minn., at Saturday afternoon’s plenary session, “and this is not about Arizona. It is about fear.”
Safford was prefacing a debate about whether to boycott Phoenix as the site of the 2012 General Assembly, which is dominating the Saturday afternoon plenary.
She echoed the sentiments of UUA President Peter Morales who had spoken earlier. “This is truly about the future of our society, human rights, the struggle for America’s soul and the struggle for the soul of the Unitarian Universalist movement,” he said.
The Rev. Abhi Janamanchi, minister of Unitarian Universalists of Clearwater, Fla., described his own experience and that of his family as they navigated the immigration process. “After more dehumanizing experiences with the INS in obtaining a religious professional visa and an eventual green card, we are now permanent resident aliens,” he said. “But with regular pat downs at airports and being yelled at by unknown people to ‘go back to Iraq,’ my family and I live with constant reminders that we are outsiders, foreigners, people who don’t belong.”
Safford, Morales, and Janamanchi were among those speaking before discussion about a revised business resolution asking UUs to come to a “Justice” General Assembly in Phoenix in 2012 focusing on social witness and education about immigrant justice.
The issue of whether the UUA should boycott Phoenix as the site of the 2012 General Assembly has generated a vigorous and sometimes emotional response.
A new resolution hammered out at a mini-assembly Friday proposes that the UUA not boycott Phoenix as the site of the 2012 GA. In May the UUA board issued a business resolution asking General Assembly delegates to choose an alternative site for the 2012 GA. The resolution was a response to the passage of Arizona Senate Bill 1070, which would empower local police to check the immigration status of people otherwise detained. It could also prosecute people for transporting, hiring, or “harboring” illegal immigrants. Many fear that the law will lead to increased racial profiling and deportations.
In June UUA President Peter Morales sent out a letter asking UUs not to boycott and to use the 2012 GA as an opportunity to stand in solidarity with those most affected by the Arizona legislation. His letter included an invitation from Puente and the National Day Laborers Association, both immigrant advocacy groups.