On April 25, 2010, Arizona Unitarian Universalists (UUs) joined a large rally at the state capitol to protest a new anti-immigrant law widely judged to be the harshest in the nation. The demonstrators rallied against Senate Bill 1070 and called for federal immigration policy reform. Among other repressive measures, the law requires local law enforcement officials to demand proof of citizenship from anyone suspected of being in the country illegally. Failure to produce adequate identification will result in detention.
Approximately thirty members from the Unitarian Universalist Church of Phoenix, Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Chandler, and other Arizona congregations attended the rally. The UU group displayed and distributed signs from the “Standing on the Side of Love” campaign to show support for those likely to be targeted and detained under the provisions of the new law. The event featured speeches by concerned legislators, including Illinois Representative Luis Gutierrez, Arizona Representatives Ed Pastor and Raul Grijalva, Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, and several others.
Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) President Rev. Peter Morales and leaders from the national interfaith community condemned the Arizona law immediately after the governor signed it on Friday, April 23. In his statement Morales said, “Everything I hold sacred as an American and as a person of faith is threatened by this legislation… We must not let fear and ignorance cause our neighbors to be treated as lesser beings. We must not allow this law to violate our national constitution or America’s moral conscience.”
The UUs of Arizona have long been vocal advocates for immigration rights. The Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson adopted local humanitarian organization No More Deaths as a ministry of the church for which they were awarded the 2010 Bennett Award for Congregational Action of Human Justice and Action. For their work opposing the unjust practices of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Phoenix was awarded the 2009 Bennett Award. The work of Arizona UUs includes advocating for immigration reform, supporting day laborers, and witnessing against human rights violations.
The UUA’s social justice policies are guided by decisions made democratically by the annual General Assembly. The Association has a long history of supporting immigrant rights, beginning with a resolution in support of migrant agricultural workers passed in 1961, the first year of the UUA’s existence. As just one example among many, the 1995 Resolution of Immediate Witness, “A Call to Conscious, Humane Treatment of Immigrants,” provides a clear context for the current protests. The resolution “urges individual Unitarian Universalists in the United States to serve those directly harmed and others affected by the passage of any legislation which would deny human beings the basic services warranted to all members of a free and just society.”
A Study/Action issue titled "Immigration as a Moral Issue" will be on the ballot at this year's General Assembly. If it is selected, UU congregations will focus on this important topic from 2010 until 2014. The four-year process allows for deepening understanding and consensus-building in regard to complex social justice topics.
Additional information about the history and context of the Association's position can be found in the UUA’s policy on Immigration. For congregations ready to take action, valuable resources are available in the Immigration Reform Toolkit.