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Join the immigration conversation

Unitarian Universalists are promoting the rights of undocumented immigrants.
By Christopher L. Walton
Spring 2012 2.15.12

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The features in this issue highlight ways that Unitarian Universalists are promoting the human rights of undocumented immigrants in the United States. The theme is timely, and not just because state laws targeting undocumented immigrants continue to spread. The Unitarian Universalist Association is preparing for its immigration-themed “Justice General Assembly” in Phoenix, Arizona, June 20–24, and congregations are midway through the four-year “Immigration as a Moral Issue” Congregational Study/Action Issue, which the General Assembly adopted in 2010.

Contributing editor Kimberly French profiles Raúl and Judy Cárdenas and their three children, a UU family in Denver, Colorado, whose congregation—and hundreds of UUs from elsewhere—mobilized to urge the government not to deport Raúl. French explores how the U.S. immigration system puts families in almost impossible situations. And she offers examples of how other congregations have started to engage with immigrants in their communities. Senior editor Michelle Bates Deakin visits immigrant rights activists in Arizona, who show how our current legal system makes many Latino/a U.S. citizens vulnerable to abuse along with undocumented immigrants. The UUA is planning Justice GA with many of these local activists. Contributing editor Donald E. Skinner, meanwhile, rounds up examples of how congregations and districts are preparing for GA.

No aspect of the immigration issue is uncomplicated. Even though the UUA’s denominational leadership, General Assembly, and social witness staff have all made solidarity with immigrant rights groups a priority, they hold a range of views about what should be done. The Justice General Assembly itself grew out of conflict over the appropriate way for the UUA to express opposition to an Arizona law targeting undocumented immigrants. The UUA had picked Phoenix as the site of its 2012 General Assembly back in 2008, but when the governor of Arizona signed the controversial law SB 1070, the UUA Board of Trustees and several UU people of color organizations called for the Association to join a boycott of the state. UU leaders in Arizona, however, along with UUA President Peter Morales, urged the Association to go ahead with the 2012 Phoenix GA as a way of showing support for local immigrant rights activists. Delegates to the 2010 General Assembly hammered out a compromise that would focus a Phoenix GA on immigration justice but limit the amount of denominational business conducted there. Planners hope this GA will equip UUs to explore immigration issues in their own communities and congregations, while giving them opportunities to engage in public witness and service.

Join the conversation. Share your comments about our stories by visiting uuworld.org, or send a letter to the editor. Go to uuworld.org, click “Current Issue,” then choose a story. You’ll find links to earlier articles about the planning of the 2012 Justice General Assembly and other resources from the UUA.

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