Rev. Paul Langston-Daley
West Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, Glendale, Arizona
I walked into the door at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Phoenix and was immediately dispatched by SSL Campaign Manager Dan Furmansky to an Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ) action. I joined Suzi Spangenberg from Berkeley and we drove to Mesa to Waldo’s BBQ Joint, where a number of Latino workers have gone unpaid for almost two months. We arrived and were met by 30 others — members of IWJ (including the director and founder of IWJ Kim Bobo), restaurant employees, and a delegation of clergy. A small group went into the restaurant to speak with the owner while the rest of us marched our way over, singing and chanting “De Colores” and “We Shall Not Be Moved.” We stood outside the restaurant, still singing and chanting, holding signs, and providing witness. Several cars honked their horns in solidarity and waved. The delegation came out of the restaurant and told us the owner was not there, but they got him by phone. He sounded empathetic and agreed to meet with Rev. Trena Zelle of IWJ next week. The meeting is a small success and it is still unclear if he will provide the back pay owed. I am grateful to have the opportunity to be a presence, a witness and a chance to stand on the side of love against wage theft. Suzi took some great footage – check out the video!More >
By Rev. Peter Morales
President, Unitarian Universalist Association
This piece originally appeared on The Huffington Post
Thousands of people will gather in Phoenix tomorrow, July 29th, to protest the scheduled implementation of Arizona’s harsh new anti-immigrant bill, SB 1070. The law’s provisions require sweeping changes to current statutes regulating everything from vehicle impoundment to warrantless arrests. Today a federal judge blocked some of the most flagrantly unconstitutional sections from going into effect tomorrow, but this reprieve is temporary, and several other states are considering similar legislation. Laws like SB1070 will harm immigrants and people of color, separate children from parents, make entire communities less safe, and blight the American spirit.
The Arizona law requires local and state law enforcement officials to ask for proof of citizenship if they suspect a person might be in the country illegally. Following a nationwide outcry, the law was amended to clarify that it does not allow for racial profiling. Still, it is impossible to imagine how this abusive practice can be avoided. There can be no mistake about the intent and outcome of this legislation: people with brown skin who speak Spanish are the targets. Ethnic cleansing could soon become the law in Arizona.
Ironically, SB1070 will undermine the very goals it purports to defend, particularly public safety, health, and education. Crime victims and witnesses will be afraid to speak to police for fear they will be detained and separated from their families. Parents will avoid taking their children to medical facilities for vital care. Schools will be disrupted when students are removed. It will also become increasingly difficult for Latino people — citizens and immigrants alike — to work and support their families.
When I was in Phoenix for the Memorial weekend protests, I was moved beyond words to see demonstrators holding sings reading “Undocumented and Unafraid.” Their courage was truly inspiring, for if conservatives win the coming court battles, SB 1070 will create a police state in which neighbors are required to inform on one another or risk prosecution themselves. Citizens who offer rides to families after church or who volunteer to drive seniors to medical appointments risk having their cars impounded if they are found to be transporting undocumented residents.
It is no surprise that most of the Arizona law enforcement community, including the state’s Attorney General, oppose the law. SB 1070 allows, and even encourages, individual citizens to bring suit against municipalities that they believe have not gone far enough in enforcing the many provisions of the law. Towns will go bankrupt defending frivolous or malicious lawsuits, neighborhoods will be destroyed, and families will be torn apart.
This vision is not the America I want to live in.
We must acknowledge that the United States is largely responsible for the influx of immigrants across our southern border. Our economic policies are helping to create wrenching economic dislocations in Mexico, Guatemala, and Nicaragua, while at the same time US companies and consumers demand and benefit from the cheap labor that immigrants supply. Businesses, consumer-citizens, and undocumented workers are profoundly connected in a vast, interdependent economic web. We cannot solve the problem by scapegoating and casting out the most vulnerable members of a system we created and profit from.
We must not allow our country to be ruled by fear and diminished by racism. Arizona is ground zero in a looming human rights crisis. And it is a spiritual crisis as well. Addressing these problems on a national scale will require honesty, humility, and generosity. By summoning these qualities we will reclaim what is best about the American spirit.
This is why I will be back in Arizona tomorrow. Unitarian Universalism is a “creedless faith, meaning we have no prescribed doctrine or dogma. But we do have principles. Our first principle affirms the worth and dignity of every individual, and the second calls for justice, equity, and compassion in human relations. I will be in Arizona to witness for the dignity of the people about to be persecuted and demeaned by SB1070. All of the world’s major religions emphasize loving one’s neighbor, so I will be part of a broad interfaith coalition standing on the side of love in Phoenix. Finally, along with thousands of other people, of every religion and none, I will be there to defend the America I believe in — a country that rewards hard work, protects privacy, and guarantees civil and human rights for all. We must act now before we betray our deepest American values and damage the soul of our nation.More >
This week in Arizona things are gearing up. My fiancé and I drove back from the east coast – 36 hours straight- to be here for the Day of Non-Compliance and other events. We returned early from vacation to act with hundreds of others gathering in Phoenix to protest the unjust and racist law, SB 1070. During my vacation, I spoke with friends, family and even a few strangers about Arizona’s law. I found a wide range of opinions even within my own family about how 1070 is being perceived around the country.
Some people agree with it and think Arizona was right for doing what the Federal Government has neglected for so long. Others think it is a travesty. Everyone agrees the immigration system is broken and wants to see it repaired. How to repair this system seems to be the sticking point.
As we drove across this vast county, passing through the Smokey Mountains with the mist rising in the hollows above the trees, the plains of Colorado vast and green as far as the eye can see, the small ramshackle homes and trailers in New Mexico and the rolling hills of Tennessee, inspired by the changing landscape and the diversity of the relationships among the flora I began thinking about evolution, our evolution as human beings on the small blue planet called Earth. (Which, by the way, did not seem so small as we drove and drove and drove almost 3000 miles to reach Phoenix.) I thought about what evolution means: to evolve, to grow and change, to diversify, to improve and I could not help thinking what does it mean to grow and change? What does evolution look like for us as human beings?
To me evolution is about moving away from isolation and dislocation and towards community and caring. It is about moving away from competition, greed and destruction, moving toward a symbiotic relationship with the planet and with others. SB 1070 is a law that encourages and supports dislocation and separation. It moves us away from each other and emphasizes “otherness”. As religious and spiritual people we seek connection for the purposes of increasing understanding, to build peaceful relationships, to further the evolution of human beings and increase our spiritual potential to care for each other.
We can no longer live in a hostile relationship with the earth and with each other. Parasites kill their host. Finding a way to live in sync, in cooperation, is essential for us and our continued growth as human beings. The voice of Unitarian Universalism is loud and clear: We need to love, to care for each other and understand the value of our diversity. Our Unitarian and Universalist heritage reminds us that all religions speak of the need to place love at the center of all we do and all we are- that all people are unique and have inherent worth and value- not just the people who look like us, or the people with whom we agree.
My friends and family have a wide range of opinions about 1070, most of them think it’s a misguided move. Many of them think we need to find a solution: a solution that limits the number of people coming over the border without documentation; a solution that offers a guest worker program; a solution that limits the ability of employers to take advantage of undocumented people; a solution that gives people their dignity, that supports families, and honors the basic principles of our nation.
I love this country, and having just driven almost 10,000 miles, across it and back again, there is no place on earth quiet like it. The beauty of the land is reflected in the people: the farmers we saw in the field checking the crops and tending the soil, the workers we interacted with in restaurants and stores, the generosity of strangers who helped us out along the way. America is a great nation, powerful and proud in our diversity. It is our adaptability that makes us strong.
It is also a nation full of fear and trepidation about what will come next. What comes next is up to us. How we evolve is up to us. We stand at yet another cross road in history and our choices now will determine the course of our future. Will our fear lead us to make the same mistakes of history: mass deportation, internment camps, lynching and gang violence. Or will we take a new course of action one untried and untested, one that recognizes the face of God in each of us regardless of our national labels. I pray that we find our spiritual voice, the voice that calls us to cooperate and collaborate rather than dominate and compete. The voice of hope is in us, each of us.
May we act with compassion and love. May we see the light of the divine reflected in each face. May we work for justice. May we be a small but essential part of the evolution of humanity in reaching toward all that is good, all that is holy, all that is sacred.
Rev. Paul Langston-Daley
West Valley Unitarian Universalist Church
The Rev. Josh Pawelek shares his reasons for standing on the side of love with immigrant families. This piece originally appeared in the Hartford Courant.
After praying long and hard, I have decided to go to Phoenix to add my voice to the growing chorus of protest against Arizona’s tough new immigration law. Barring an injunction from the U.S. District Court, the law goes into effect next Thursday.
Dubbing this Arizona’s “freedom summer,” civil rights organizations and faith groups have vowed to resist the law’s implementation and are calling on all those concerned about the humane treatment of immigrants to lend their voices and bodies to the struggle. The law’s most controversial provision is known as Article 8 B. It requires police to make a “reasonable attempt” to determine the immigration status of a person if they have a “reasonable suspicion” that “the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States.”
Unfortunately, Article 8.B does not define “reasonable.” It is so vague that even my untrained legal eye can see that police officers, on a whim, will be able to stop, question and detain anyone they choose. This opens the floodgates for racial profiling, which has been cause for dismay among civil rights activists across the nation.
With Article 8. B at its core, Arizona’s law has the strong potential to result in separation of families, unnecessary incarcerations, erroneous deportations of legal citizens and lost productivity. It has struck fear and terror into the heart of Arizona’s Hispanic communities. This law is an affront to the moral sensibilities of our nation.
I am not in favor of open borders. Given the reality of drug smuggling, human trafficking and the potential movement of international terrorists, I recognize the need for tough, consistent and well-resourced border control. I also recognize that the Arizona legislature and Gov. Jan Brewer were frustrated by the lack of federal progress on immigration reform and felt compelled to act. But, in the end, the new law doesn’t “get tough” on immigration.
It gets tough on people already living in the United States. That is its moral failing.
Some estimates put the number of undocumented people in the United States at 20 million. The vast majority of them have come here out of economic desperation.
There is considerable evidence that in most cases, they take jobs most citizens don’t want. There is clearly a robust market for their labor, otherwise they wouldn’t come. We cannot intimidate, arrest and deport our way out of this situation as if such activities can somehow contain the larger economic forces at work. Undocumented immigrants work extremely hard, for long hours, with very little recognition and few rights. Like so many previous generations of immigrants, they provide the unseen backbone of our economy. The Arizona law completely ignores this reality.
I am moved by the words of Moses who said “when an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be as a citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself.” I don’t turn to this scripture for legal advice, but I do seek moral inspiration from it.
Our nation needs immigration reform desperately, but let us achieve it in a manner that respects the integrity of undocumented people and honors their contributions to our society. Let us achieve it in a way that doesn’t tear parents from their children in the dead of night. Let us achieve it in a way that doesn’t criminalize whole communities based on skin color, language and accent. Let us achieve it in a way that doesn’t return us to our white supremacist past. Let us achieve it in a way that is grounded in the same love toward the alien of which Moses spoke.
Arizona is better than its new immigration law. So is our nation. That is why, when the call went out for clergy and others to come to Phoenix, I could not refuse.
The Rev. Josh Pawelek is minister of the Unitarian Universalist Society: East in Manchester and president of the Greater Hartford Interfaith Coalition for Equity and Justice.
You can stand in solidarity with immigrant families by hosting or joining a solidarity prayer vigil as a part of the July 29th-August 1st National Weekend of Prayer and Action for Immigrant Justice. Find out more.More >
Last Friday Carolina Kawarik, a Member of Valley Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Chandler, Arizona, was arrested while protesting Arizona’s anti-immigrant law SB 1070. When Carolina was asked why she committed civil disobedience, this was her response:
I have been asked why I committed civil disobedience recently.
Being a UU calls me to many things, but most of all to respect the inherent worth and dignity of all people. I believe that it matters deeply how we treat one another – how we honor our community; whether it’s our faith community, our local community, or our human community. SB 1070 violates the very ideas, ideals, and principles I hold dear.
By the sheer fortune of the location of my birth, I immigrated to this country easily, had permanent resident status for most of my life, and was able to get my citizenship within a year and a half of applying. Many others wait 20 years or more. Why?
Our immigration policy is dysfunctional and has led to a situation where AZ and other states feel the need to pass immoral legislation to “manage” the challenges that come with a large undocumented population. SB1070, however, will lead to more fear, undue suspicion, increased polarization, and escalating conflict within our communities – it already has – and it isn’t even in effect yet.
As Carlos Garcia of Puente said: “We have done four marches now in the last year, nothing has changed, the administration hasn’t acted, the state has gotten worse…
… the courts aren’t listening to us, the federal government’s not listening to us…
… we’re hoping change comes soon”.
We had one week left before this law put its stranglehold on our state – and there came a point where I felt obligated no longer to simply stand with the immigrant community here – but to stand out for them. I chose to take a risk that day for those who cannot do so – to join the the increasing number of voices for those whose voices go unheard. Listen…
SB1070 must be repealed or struck down.
We need realistic, humane, and comprehensive immigration reform.
We need to address and eliminate the systemic racism and discrimination that permeate our nation and our world.
There is no “us”. There is no “them”.
There is only “We – all – together”
We’re hoping change comes soon.
July 23, 2010