General Assembly: GA Presentations: Presenter views and opinions do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the UUA.

Arizona Immigration Ministry Witness! Turning the Tide from Fear to Human Rights

General Assembly 2012 Event 114

Program Description

Justice General Assembly attendees joined the Unitarian Universalist (UU) Arizona Immigration Ministry (AZIM), Arizona UU congregations, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, Los Comités de Defensa del Barrio, and Somos America to kick off five days of action, education, skill building, worship and witness.

¡Basta Ya! It’s time to shine a light on the human rights abuses in Arizona that are being replicated across the country. As people of faith and conscience we will not keep silent as families and our communities are torn apart by a system of racial profiling, mass detention and deportation, militarization of the border, and anti-immigrant laws. Wherever we are from—we stand together as one! We stand on the side of love.


  • Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray, Arizona Immigration Ministry
  • Rev. Peter Morales, President, Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA)
  • Salvador Reza and members of Los Comités de Defensa del Barrio
  • Pablo Alvarado, National Day Laborer Organizing Network
  • Representatives of the Somos America coalition

Report from UU World


SPEAKER 1: A movement to turn the tide from fear to humanity. Some of our human rights partners have joined us in public witness tonight. I'm going to ask for Lydia Guzman to speak first. She has been one of our mentors

LYDIA GUZMAN: Respect was a hotline, a hotline that serves to inform the community, to protect the community, to refer the community to organizations, individuals, and even agencies that might help the community. Now, when I talk about the community, I'm talking about those who feel that they have nowhere else to turn, folks that are victimized because of the color of their skin, because of their accent, because of their legal status. And the person who has been victimizing them usually ends by threatening these people with the statement saying, what are you going to do? If you report me, I'll have you deported.

More than ever, more than ever this is a community who has stood to suffer the vulnerabilities of so many issues of victimization, whether it's consumer fraud, racism, whether it's discrimination and flat out hatred. It is so good to see the UUs here today. It is so good to see and share right now, more than ever. At the heels of the announcement of SB1070, there's so much uncertainty. But it's so good to see that you stand here with us on the side of love. Thank you so much.

SPEAKER 1: OK. There's empty chairs. Now, with some words on behalf of the Somos Coalition, is Somos board officer Margarito Blancas.


MARGARITO BLANCAS: Hello. My name is Margarito Blancas, and I'm a member of the Somos America Coalition, We are America Coalition here. It's a coalition compromised of more than 40 organizations and individuals that are advocating for migrant rights here in Arizona. And on behalf of the Somos American Coalition, we'd like to welcome you here to share in our struggles that are happening here in Arizona. We also look forward to worship together and to learn from each other. So, again, on behalf of Somos America, we'd like to do welcome you to the Justice GA her in Phoenix. Thank you.


SPEAKER 1: And now, representing the Committees for the Defense of the Barrio and Tonatierra, Dr. Sylvia Herrera,


SYLVIA HERRERA: Thank you very much. I'd like to start first of all giving thanks to the Creator for giving me another day here and sharing His words with you, also my ancestors that have guided me on this path for social justice. I want to thank you for being here and fulfilling your commitment to be here with us in this struggle that you made two years ago when SB1070 was passed. And you're here again on the eve of the announcement of SB1070.

People are asking us, what's going to happen? It's already been happening. SB1070 is in force. The police are stopping people for no reason.

—to kiss their mommy goodbye, because they're not going to ever see her again. These are the stories that you're going to be hearing.

There's a reason for you to be here, to join us in that boycott of products that are giving money to people of hate. You have to send that message. You have to share the stories of your communities. We have the [INAUDIBLE] that meet on a weekly basis in their different neighborhoods supporting each other and going out in community forums also calling and having access to an attorney.

Those are the messages that you have to share with your community, that we're in a battle here. I'm not going to mince my words and say, oh, you know, we're dealing with it. Your community is going to have to deal with it too, if it's not dealing with it already.

We have to recognize the language that's being used as we said earlier. We are not—

We see it in different agencies. We see it in the 911 calls that people are making where they're being asked for Social Security numbers. You're seeing it in the different agencies that are supposed to protect—

—and that we're sharing with you these next couple of days. And support the boycott of Budweiser products and Frito-Lay products.


First it was the day laborers that were visible, males out in the streets, on the street corners. Then it was the students that were taken away their right to an education. Now they're coming after our moms. And now they're going after our children. I will not support this type of policies.

And now they're given another false promise of an education. Our students in the high schools are being picked up by the police, by the local police, take them directly to ICE. They're asking for their moms or dads to come and sign for them, because they're minors. What happens? That parent has to go into sign for them and they too become part of that processing for deportation.

There's many stories that I could tell you. But you'll be hearing them from the individuals themselves that have been directly affected. And you will see their children that have been traumatized and terrorized. Keep those images and take them back to your community.

I thank you for fulfilling your responsibility and I hope to share information and the work that we're doing to change this community and change this country, because what is happening here is going to happen in other communities and we have to be organized. We have to be organized in order to defend our rights. Thank you.


SPEAKER 1: Our moderator, Gini Courter, is now up here with us. And she's been to Arizona before. And she's been in la lucha before. And she's back and I think she has a few words to say to us.



Brothers and sisters, my friends, it's an honor to be with you here tonight, and to speak with you. It's an honor because we chose this. We chose to be here, to be with folks who do not get to choose, who have no choice. It's an honor because Unitarian Universalists said yes. It's an honor because our partners trusted us enough to invite us in the first place.

Can you feel the awe of that trust and that love meeting here in this place right now? If you can feel that, let me hear you.


I am honored because we know this must stop. It must stop here. Remember—Pablo reminded us, Arizona isn't a rogue state. Arizona is the pattern of our future if we let it be so. Will we let this continue?


GINI COURTER: Do we believe we can make a difference?

AUDIENCE: Yes! Si, se puede. Si, se puede. Si, se puede!

GINI COURTER: There is a future that is better and brighter than anything we have in front of us right now. How many of you feel despairs from time to time when you look around our country and around the world? How many of you feel that you're alone in that despair sometimes? Are you alone tonight?


GINI COURTER: How many of you feel alone and weak sometimes and you don't know what to do or if you can make a difference? Am I the only person who feels that way or do you feel it too?


GINI COURTER: But we can make a difference. We can make a difference. UUA trustee Jake Morrill says it's really simple. When hate shows up, it's time for love to show up.


GINI COURTER: When deportations start, what happens? Love shows up. When we play bait and switch and say, come for the education, now we'll take your parents. That was awful. When that happens, it's time for love to show up.

This is what love looks like, not a warm and fuzzy kind of love that we sing love songs about, not a pie in the sky love, not wishing it could be different. This is the love that is the foundation of hope. This is the love that says that if we are committed and if we bring love in robust enough volume, if we can show love everywhere we go, and if we can focus it together, knowing that a million voices cry out for our attention, but right now what we've said is our focus as Unitarian Universalists is here.

Our focus is injustice. Our focus is immigration. Our focus is racism. Our focus is the economic genocide being done to our people.

And if we can focus here, if we can, for this moment and the next few moments that it takes, not be distracted by—but that's important too. And I'm not saying it's not. But we could spend our time—yes we could. But it takes all of us not going in 100,000 directions, but marshalling ourselves and our love in one important place. My friends, if we can do that, I trust that we can help turn the tide and make a difference.


GINI COURTER: So here goes that next shiny idea. And don't let your eyes follow it. Bring them right back here. Look with love in the eyes of the person standing next to you. Look with love in the eyes of the folks who are putting up with injustice that we have allowed to persist in this country.

Look with love and say, we will make a difference starting here, starting now, in Arizona, in Massachusetts, in Georgia, in Alabama, in Michigan, in all the Arizonas in this country until we feel good about what we will say to our children when they ask, what do you do when this happened? Be here with us this week. Make a difference and bless us all.


SPEAKER 1: So, we've already heard this evening from Pablo—

SPEAKER 2: These programs are meant to deport people who have committed violent crimes. And it was a lie. Over 70% of the people who have been deported have committed minor traffic violations or no crime at all. And it's been a deliberate political decision that this administration has made. They have decided to go after the mother with a broken tail light, rather than going after those people who stole the houses of many Americans.


SPEAKER 2: [SPEAKING SPANISH] So thank you for being here with us in Arizona, because I think that our voice must be clear, and other people will hear the message, loud and clear. He may have the support of white supremacist organizations [INAUDIBLE]. But we have diversity and love on our side.


SPEAKER 2: He may have the badge. But again, but we have the patrimony of human rights. We have dignity. And he can't take it away. So thank you so much. [SPEAKING SPANISH]





SPEAKER 1: I'm humbled by the number of you who came on out here. We have much work to do tomorrow and the hour is late. And so—

SPEAKER 3: The real test is going to be what is happening six months from now, one year from now, two years from now, five years from now in all of our congregations all across America. Let us rededicate ourselves to opening our hearts, to learning what it's going to take.