Immigration Issues

What If All the Kids are White?

    What if All the Kids are White? is the book assigned in preparation for the Multicultural Religious Education Renaissance Module, an educational program for religious educators, ministers, youth advisors and anyone else interested in growing a multicultural congregation. Often I hear conversations in UU churches of how open and accepting we are of “them” – some other group – perhaps Hispanics, African-Americans, GLBT or poor folks. If only “they” would come and stay long enough to be part of “us”, then our diversity problem would be solved! But the painful truth is that the hard work of being open to diversity AND ITS IMPLICATIONS belongs to ME and my congregation – not THEM.
I was a white, middle-aged woman with a history of moderate involvement in civil rights when I took the Multicultural RE module in 1998. It changed my life and the way I look at the world. Did I walk away feeling depressed and guilty for the unearned privileges I enjoyed? Not really, but to a depth unknown before, I became aware of the extent culture and systems impact me and everyone else. That profound challenge to my worldview continues today, and indeed symbolizes why Unitarian Universalism is such a difficult faith to live. How I wish I could just transform “them” and make the world a better place, but now I realize that the struggle must start with me. Darn! And that for as long as I live I will never be finished with spiritual growth. Double darn!
All of us are aware of the changing complexion and culture around us. We want our children and our faith to thrive, but feel ill-equipped and uneasy about how to proceed. In a safe community, the Multicultural RE Renaissance Module challenges individuals to examine their worldview, unbuild what is no longer helpful, and built upon their strengths to be the kind of person there are striving to be.
This work in becoming open to multicultural richness begins with you. Please join me April 15-17 as we struggle and learn together! Details are at the St. Lawrence District website

Karen LoBracco
Lifespan Faith Development Consultant
Ohio Meadville and St. Lawrence Districts


Are You Ready for Phoenix?

GA 2012 LogoIn case you haven’t heard yet, this year’s General Assembly in Phoenix, AZ is going to be unlike any we’ve ever had before. And its not just the change of the name to a Justice General Assembly that will be different.

Want to know what exactly will be happening? What will be different and what will be the same? Your main source of information is the UUA’s General Assembly webpage. But there are other sources of information that you can also rely on.

The OMD has created a page of GA resources on our website. Find it at

Here is a listing of some of the resources we’ve found to help you out:

  • The UUA has created a brochure, order of service inserts, posters and more that have been posted on the UUA GA website resources page. Visit there to download the information and use it in your congregation to educate everyone about what is happening this year.
  • Want to know more about what is planned? CERG is offering a webinar on March 12th about what to expect. You can register on the CERG website.
  • There is a blog called Cooking Together: Recipes for Immigration Justice Work that has been set up to share what congregations are doing to learn about immigration. One item recently posted was 10 ways to help youth prepare for this year’s General Assembly. Find it at
  • There are curricula available on immigration for children and adults. Find the children’s curriculum titled With Justice and Compassion: Immigration Sessions for Children’s Religious Education at . The adult curriculum is based on the Congregational Study Action Issue “Immigration as a Moral Issue” and can be found at
  • The Ballou Channing District is producing a series of very short videos presenting information about immigration, General Assembly programming, GA registration. Three are currently running and more will be coming in the next few weeks. Take a look at

Finally, registration and housing are now open, so you want to get in there and register early! ( Rates do go up on May 1. In addition, financial aid is available from the UUA and the OMD. To learn about different financial aid options from the UUA visit the GA Financial Aid webpage. To learn what the OMD is offering, please check out our Phoenix Witness Scholarship Program.

Phoenix will be your chance to be part of UU history. Will you be there?

Beth C



Moving Justly into Our Shared Future

Thanksgiving. It is a time of harvest. It is a time to celebrate food. A time to celebrate that which sustains us. It is the time to gather with friends and family around a crackling fire on the hearth. Basking in the warmth of love and community. Thanksgiving is often held up as the holiday that is about family and food, rather than about consumerism. There is no stress to buy the right thing. Thanksgiving is about sharing, generosity, and gratitude. It is about being happy with what we have.

Thanksgiving is a joyous celebration of gratitude for all that sustains us, and yet it is also a complicated holiday. The Thanksgiving holiday which we celebrate today has evolved over the last 400 years. It has links to ongoing regular harvest festivals throughout the world and has links to the very old European tradition of proclaiming a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to express gratitude to God for special events.

Thanksgiving has always been closely tied to Native American history and the genocide carried out by European colonists. And because of this many Native Americans and their allies gather to participate in a National Day of Mourning each year on the fourth Thursday of November in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Many Native Americans do not celebrate the arrival of the settlers. Thanksgiving Day can be a reminder of the theft of lands and a relentless assault on indigenous culture.

As a descendent of the European colonists it is important for me to consider what it means when I chose to use traditional indigenous prayers within the context of worship in a Unitarian Universalist congregation. Am I participating in the ongoing assault on indigenous culture? Am I thoughtfully sharing a beautiful prayer with sentiments I hold dear in my own heart? Am I reinforcing my privileged position as a member of the winning team by speaking these prayers? And is it more important to honor our relationship to the earth or more important to respect the cultural traditions of specific Native American tribes? These are some of the questions I grapple with.

As someone who strives to be an ally to all oppressed people, I have made an effort to participate in a number of anti-racist, anti-oppression, multicultural competency training workshops. In these workshops and in events led by and sponsored by Native Americans one of the messages I have heard from Indians is, We are still alive. We are here. Many treaties have been broken in the past. Let’s fix them today.

Thanksgiving. It is a bittersweet holiday. A day to share the bountiful harvest. A holiday without shopping for more gadgets. A day to celebrate with friends and family. And a day to reflect upon how each of us came to be here on this land. It is a day to celebrate the bounty in our lives. And a day to consider how we can move justly into our shared future.

~Rachel, Social Witness Coordinator


Vision of the Beloved Community

by Rev. Joan Van Becelaere, Ohio-Meadville District Executive

I saw a little vision of the Beloved Community Sunday evening, Sept. 11.

I was attending the Ohio Interfaith Prayer Service in the atrium of the Ohio Statehouse, commemorating the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy. The sponsors included Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Protestant, Hindu and Sikh organizations and congregations. And, as would be expected, there were various speakers leading parts of the service and representing these diverse groups. This was all very good, but not unexpected.

For me, the surprising vision of Beloved Community came during the service itself.

The room had nearly 200 people in it. It was a very colorful mix – in all senses of the word. There were all of the many different ethnicities one would expect to find in a modern major city. Men and boys in yarmulkes, some brightly colored. Women wearing hijab head scarves; others wearing saris; and still others wearing their Sunday best. A couple of older gentlemen in talk, Sikh turbans.

At the beginning, we were invited to share what we were feeling today with one or two people next to us. Thought hesitant at first, people shared a sentence or two with their neighbors. During the service, there were prayers and candles of Remembrance. Prayers and candles of Comfort. And Prayers and candles of Hope. A Jewish cantor sang an exquisitely beautiful and haunting prayer of sorrow that filled the room and filled the heart.

At the end, we were asked: “What might we take away today? Where do we go from here?” And we were invited to share with each other again.

There was no hesitancy this time. Everyone turned and shared. And shared. And shared. In front of me, the young woman in hijab shared with a woman wearing a yarmulke. Another woman in hijab was in tears while sharing with an older white couple. There were folk laughing and others serious or crying. Some laughing and crying at the same time. Folk with black skin, brown skin, white, yellow, red and every shade in between were talking, communicating, hearing one another’s fears and pain and hope.

In our sharing, we weren’t concerned about “saying the right thing” to one another. We prayed and sang together, and were not concerned whether we got every note of the song right or not. We talked with one another and were not self-conscious in the face of difference.

To me, this as a vision of the Beloved Community, a vision of what our future can be, in all of its multicultural beauty.  If we have the courage to claim it,  the heart to work for it, and the soul to understand it.

And this gathering, this  foretaste of the Beloved Community prayed together:
“O God, lead us from death to life, from falsehood to truth.
Lead us from despair to hope, from fear to trust.
Lead us from hate to love, from war to peace.
Let peace fill our hearts, our world, our universe. Amen.”

Amen indeed.


In Our Own Backyards: Why We Should Be Concerned About Immigration Reform and ICE Practices

by Rev. Joan Van Becelaere, District Executive, Ohio-Meadville District of the UUA

We Unitarian Universalists are called to respect the worth and dignity of all – regardless of race, ethnicity, documentation status or citizenship. We promote justice, equity and compassion in all human relations and respect the web of all existence.

Given the principles we proclaim and our call to live what we believe, it is important that we become aware of what is taking place our own backyards in regard to increasingly questionable and illegal tactics by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The stories below highlight why we must, as people of faith, ethics and compassion, be concerned about immigration reform. The stories raise difficult questions about the state of our society and the attitudes and agendas of those that we entrust to uphold our laws.

When people are dehumanized, oppressed or threatened because of their identities, we are called to Stand on the Side of Love.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, April 14, 2011 by Alliance for Immigrants Rights and Reform Michigan
Leaders Demand Accountability as ICE Tactics Worsen

Detroit – Faith and community leaders gathered on a telephonic press conference this afternoon to voice their condemnation and concern about ICE’s abusive tactics.

The incidents that have come to light include ICE officials detaining a U.S. citizen, denying a pregnant woman her medication and throwing a man through a wall during a home raid.

Last week, AIR released this list of demands which has not been fulfilled:

1) Pursuant to ICE’s own guidelines, “Field Guidance on Enforcement Actions or Investigative Activities At or Near Sensitive Locations,” we demand to know who authorized enforcement actions at schools, if anyone, and why.

2) We demand that ICE immediately respect their own policy, and end all enforcement activities near schools, churches, mosques, community centers and health clinics, and ends warrant-less searches and raids of homes.

3) We demand that the officers involved in Thursday’s incident here at Hope Elementary School be identified and disciplined.

4) We demand that officers involved in the warrant—less search of Maria and Rogelio Perez’s home be identified and disciplined.

5) We demand that Rebecca Adducci submit a “Civil Rights Plan” to the community that specifically addresses how problems like this will be prevented from occurring in the future.

Ryan Bates, Director of the Alliance for Immigrants Rights & Reform – Michigan – made this statement:
“It’s clear that these are not isolated incidents, but rather a pattern of abusive and often illegal enforcement. The Detroit ICE Office is out of control, and ICE leadership must take immediate, concrete steps to hold those responsible to account. Immigration enforcement must be conducted with respect for our laws, and ICE’s own policies.”

Ruben Torres, a U.S. citizen told the story of how he was detained by ICE agents for over an hour, despite showing his drivers’ license, social security card and union card. He expressed his frustration and anger by saying:

“I’m a U.S. citizen; I shouldn’t have to carry my birth-certificate around because my last name is Torres. After nearly an hour on the side of the road he let me go. He never showed me a warrant or gave me any reason for why I was stopped. It was clear that they came after me because I am Latino. In my opinion this was racism through and through. Immigration shouldn’t be stopping people because of their race. That is not the America that I was raised in.”

Jorge Deanda, who is also a U.S. citizen suffered at the hands of Detroit ICE agents when these entered his house illegally without a warrant and without his consent. Mr. Deanda said:
“What kind of America is this, what kind of United States?”

Jessie Rossman and ACLU attorney explained that there are certain protections that are so fundamental that they apply not only to U.S. citizens but to all people regardless of their immigration status. Protection against unreasonable searches and seizures is one of them.

Last week, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued a statement admitting that they had broken their own policies during the stake-out at Hope of Detroit Academy and would take appropriate steps to address any concerns from the community. However, these are not isolated issues and the appropriate steps have not been taken to remedy the situation. ICE agents continue to abuse their power and conduct illegal, even violent searches while not being disciplined or held accountable for their actions. This is clearly a violation of these fundamental protections under law and is becoming a common trend with ICE not only in Detroit but throughout our country.

Reverend Jack Eggleston from the South East Michigan Evangelical Lutheran Church of America spoke and condemned these abuses:

Cases of Abuse and Legal Violations by Detroit ICE Agents:
Roseville, MI: Mother Strip-Searched in Front of Son

On May 5th, 2010, Ivan Nikolov and his mother, Valentina Ivanova, were detained in Calhoun County detention facility. During intake, Ivan was forced to watch his mother, who was in tears, while she was strip-searched. There was a small, shoulder-length screen separating the two individuals, but the incident was very embarrassing to both Ivan and his mother. When Ms. Ivanov expressed her objections to being strip-searched in front of her son, Officer Jolin (sp?) told her “You’re lucky we don’t just shoot you in the head.”

Cincinnati, OH: Immigrant Shoved Through Wall

On the afternoon of February 12, 2011, a Cincinnati family was at home when they heard what the mother, Beatriz, described as a “soft, childlike knock on the door.” When they answered the door, immigration agents burst in, and proceeded to search the apartment aggressively. They did not show the family a warrant, but did show a picture of an unfamiliar Latino man. The agents man-handled Beatriz’ husband without provocation, and shoved the man against the wall so hard that he broke through the drywall. The Detroit ICE office has jurisdiction over Ohio.

Detroit, MI: ICE Illegally Searched Home, Failed to Provide Proper Medical Care to Pregnant Woman

On March 23, 2011, Rogelio Perez Vazquez returned to his home to find ICE agents outside. They asked for his brother, and Rogelio told him that he did not live with him. The agents asked to perform a search, and Rogelio denied them permission asked to see a warrant. The agents only showed Rogelio a badge, and Rogelio reiterated that they did not have permission to enter his home. They entered anyway, and found his wife, Maria Perez, who was six months pregnant at the time. ICE detained Ms. Perez, separating her from her husband and three U.S. citizen children. When Mr. Perez came to the Rosa Parks ICE facility to bring his wife her medication, ICE agents refused to give Ms Perez the medicine. Ms. Perez was also denied appropriate access to doctors and nutritious food while in immigration jail.

Detroit, MI: ICE Pulled Over, Interrogated, and Detained U.S. Citizen

On March 24, 2011, Ruben Torres was pulled over on the M-10 Service Drive, near Howard and Abbot, by an unmarked car of the type typically used by ICE. Torres was born in Detroit and is a U.S. citizen. The officer interrogated Torres and demanded to see his visa. Torres showed him his social security card, driver’s license, and union membership cards and continued to explain that he is a U.S. citizen. The officer insisted that Torres produce either a visa or a birth certificate to prove his claims. He told Torres that he believed Torres’ “visa” expired in 2004 and that he should “stop lying” about being a U.S. citizen. The officer detained Torres for about an hour and then released him.

Detroit, MI: ICE Stalked and Arrested Parents at School

On March 31, ICE agents were active throughout the morning at Hope of Detroit Academy. At approximately 7:30 AM, agents were either waiting for Jose Maldonado Plasencia at the school or followed him there. After dropping his child off at school, Mr. Maldonado and his wife were followed from the school and stopped approximately a block away. Mr. Maldonado was detained, though ICE never obtained prior authorization for performing enforcement at a school.

ICE subsequently followed two additional families to the school from their neighborhood approximately a mile away. The families noticed that they were being followed by at least three vehicles of the type used by immigration (SUV’s and sedans with tinted windows). After dropping their children off, the families took refuge in the school, unsure of what to do. Immigration agents then took up positions around the school, playground, and church, lying in wait for the families. In the meantime, other parents and children began to panic, placing dozens of calls into the school’s office wondering if their children were safe.

At approximately 9:00 AM, AIR Director Ryan Bates arrived on the scene and interviewed the families. Bates then intervened with ICE and asked if they had a warrant. The officer admitted that they had no warrant, and Bates asked the officers to leave. The officer complied, and a convoy of five or six vehicles departed from positions around the school, church, and playground.

Many parents were too afraid to pick up their children, and attendance at the school is still low because many parents are simply too scared to bring their children to school.

Detroit, MI: ICE Surrounded Another Elementary School

On April 7, 2011, after the incident at Hope of Detroit Academy came to light, parents at Neinas Elementary School reported seeing immigration agents circling the school in the afternoon when they came to pick up their children at approximately 2:30 PM. The witness saw at least one ICE and one Border Patrol vehicle outside the school. She was able to identify the Border Patrol vehicle by the green markings (Customs and Border Protection), and the ICE officer passed close enough to her that she was able to see the word “ICE” written on his uniform. Once again, parents were thrown into panic. No detention was reported.

Wixom, MI: ICE Illegally Searched Home, Interrogated U.S. Citizen

On April 7, 2011, ICE agents detained Luis Rodriguez outside his home. Although he did not give the officers consent to enter the house, they did so anyway. There they found U.S. citizen Jorge Deana, who was sleeping. Deana asked what they were doing there and whether they had a warrant. Officers did not show Deana a warrant, but instead demanded to see his identification. Officers left, with Rodriguez in custody, after Deana claimed he was a US Citizen.


It’s More Than a Slogan

by Rev. Joan Van Becelaere

Where to start?

Thursday and Friday in Phoenix have been frightening. And filled with hope. Exhausting. And Exhilarating. Tearful. And filled with the overwhelming power of love.

One image I will never forget is the picture of the people, most in yellow “Love” shirts, blocking the downtown Phoenix intersection. While they were being arrested, they linked arms and sang the ‘breathing meditation’ from the hymnal:  “When I breathe in, I breathe in peace.  When I breathe out,  I breathe out love.”

Tonight, we were in the middle of a Taize-style service of song and mediation when it was suddenly announced that Salvador Reza, human rights activist and leader of Puente, was arrested for a second time by Sherrif Arpaio. But there were no charges! The retaliatory nature of the arrest was obvious.

We cut the worship meeting short and organized to go out to Phoenix’s tent city where S. Reza was being held.

When Jerry (spouse) and I got there, things were getting started. Some people were beginning to smudge the demonstration site. Others were seting up the drum. Still others were handing out signs and setting aside sections of the sidewalk for those who wanted to pray. Small children were runnign around, fanning people with Standing on The Side of Love signs to cool them off in the early evening heat.

I sat down with in the prayer section and settled in. It was an amazing experience to try and mediated while drums are beating and people are chanting and car horns (so many,many car horns) are honking in support. It was a powerful experience and I will neve forget.

After about an hour and 3/4 or so, one of the folk who had been arrested yesterday asked me to drive her back to her hotel. She was simply worn out. I was amazed she was still standing. So Jerry and I took her back to her hotel.

While in the lobby, we received several kind comments and two young adults/people of color came over to shake our hands and thank us enthusiastically for coming to Phoenix. I was a bit speechless.

The vigil is still ongoing and has moved to the downtown jail location where S. Reza was moved (we think.) It’s nearly midnight and Jerry and I are also feeling exhausted. So we will sleep awhile and plan to rejoin the vigil in the morning before heading out for our plane back to Columbus.

I feel that something major has happened this week. This is the beginning of a change in the American soul. Standing on the side of love has become more than a niftly little song in the hymnal. It has become more than a slogan and t-shirt. It is now a way of life.

May we all learn to live in love.


Arizona, the Night Before

I just got back to my homestay from an excellent non-violent civil disobedience training put on by the Ruckus Society and the Catalyst Project. It was held at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Phoenix and there were more than 100 Unitarian Universalists there. It was wonderful to be in the room with so many dedicated people and positive energy. I think that’s there hope that we as a religious community can make a positive difference in the situation here in Arizona.

I have been told that no other religious community has turned out in the same number as the Unitarian Universalists. The Unitarian Universalist efforts in Phoenix are being coordinated, in part, by the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Standing on the Side of Love campaign. The campaign has offered us some clear and helpful messaging for when we talk with the press. The message we’re supposed to be offering up reads: “I am here to stand on the side of love with immigrant families and people of color in Arizona who are threatened by SB1070. This legislation was born out of fear. It scapegoats and criminalizes entire communities and does nothing to fix our broken immigration system. Congress and the Administration must work together towards a humane solution that allows families to stay together, provides a path to legalization, and gives people hope.”

I think that is a good summation of my overall position and it is certainly what I intend to say in the unlikely event that I get the opportunity to talk to the press.

On a slightly different subject I understand that portions of SB1070 were stayed in an injunction today. What we are hearing on the ground from Puente and others in the communities effected is that the injunction cannot be thought of as even a partial victory. It does not stay many of the more odious parts of the law. Someone put it this way today: the injunction does not stop immigrant communities and their supporters from being terrorized in Arizona, it just limits the reasons for which they can be terrorized. In light of this the protests for tomorrow are going ahead as planned. I will tweet as much as I can tomorrow. Since many of the protests tomorrow are unpermitted it is possible that at some point I’ll be silent for awhile. If I am I will post an update as soon as I can.

Colin B


“Why We Are in Phoenix” by Rev. Joan Van Becelaere

My alarm rang at 3:30 am today. As I set up I saw my three cats, lined up at the foot of the bed, staring at me –as only felines can stare. They were definitely disgruntled and seemed to ask: “Why are you getting up at this outrageous time of night/morning?”

I nudged/pushed my spouse, Jerry, out of bed. He joined the cats in asking “Why?”, even though he knew perfectly well why we needed to get to the airport for a 6 am flight.

So, we shlepped to the airport in Columbus and spent the next 7 hours in and out of various crowded planes and bustling airports.


And then we finally arrived at Phoenix and stepped into 110+ heat. Wow!!


And spent the afternoon and evening in non-violence and clergy peace presence training.

Why indeed?

Because we called to stand on the side of love with immigrant families and people of color here in Arizona and throughout the United States who are the victims of hate and fear.

Because Arizona’s SB 1070, despite some ameliorating measures today, is legislation born out of fear and the worst kind of panic. It tries to criminalize whole communities of people and does nothing to mend our broken immigration system.

Because our national leaders must step up and work together to create a humane solution to immigration reform that allows families to stay together, provides a path to legal status (not amnesty), protetcts all people, and gives people hope for the future.

Because we are called to work together to help bend the arc of the Universe toward justice and thus build the Beloved Community.

We are in Phoenix today and especially tomorrow because we care about the heart and soul and future of America. It is a moral imperative that we be here.

And we now know that the world is watching to see what happens here in Phoenix on July 29, 2010.

Tomorrow should be a very interesting day indeed.


Standing on the Side of (tough?) Love

This is Jolinda Stephens, DRE at First UU Columbus, blogging from Arizona, as more than 100 of us gather to stop the anti-immigrant SB 1070 by tomorrow or engage in civil disobedience to end the enforcement of this law that seeks to criminalize certain immigration statuses. This is a law that affects us all.

Last night the UU Congregation of Phoenix, one of our organizing congregations sponsored the screening of 9500 Liberty, which documents what happened in Prince Williams County VA when they passed a similar law. It destroyed both community peace and the local economy. Learn more about the documentary at or explore their channel on youtube. They posted segments as they filmed them. Last night’s forum was streamed through the Coffee Party’s website. The directors are also the founders of the Coffee Party.

Following the screening, the two directors and two local politicians talked about how we address immigration issues and other assaults to our communities and the public good by forces of intolerance and violence. Annabel Park and Eric Byler, the directors, had seen and even become a force in restoring a community to a more civil society through reason, facts and courage of people of conscience. They argued for combating the forces of hate with reason, an aggressive campaign to get the facts out and involvement of faith communities. Hating and demonizing the enemy does not help, they said.

Eric told about one scene that they left on the cutting room floor. Outside one meeting there were Latina/o community members yelling “We are human beings.” And a group gathered just a few yards away who were armed and shouting back, “No you aren’t.” He said at that point he decided it was time to go inside. He felt very unsafe. And yet with all the hate, in the end the law was rescinded. One of the main factors that brought Republicans around was the fact that taxes had to be increased by 25% to implement the law.

The local people on the panel were much more pessimistic. It could be summed up with the comment from one that though the grownups won in Virginia, there were no grownups in Arizona politics. The whole idea of going for the center and of appealing to conscience doesn’t work was the message I took from them. The other message that came across loud and clear was that people of conscience in Arizona are very tired and low on hope. I also agree that appeasement and allowing the frame of the debate to be moved constantly to the right is not the answer. How about some radical love?

This afternoon we all gather and do several hours of civil disobedience training and action planning. The law goes into effect tomorrow and we start at 4:30 am to struggle for human rights with love.

Your fact for today: If those who are out of immigration status are “illegal” then every adult who has ever violated a traffic law is “illegal.”


Down in Arizona (Colin’s First Reflections)

For the next several days I will be in Phoenix, Arizona taking part in the protests against the implementation of Arizona State Bill 1070. While I am in Phoenix I will, to the extent that I can, post something to my blog daily about my experiences. My observations will be cross-posted to Ohio Meadville District’s blog where they will appear alongside reflections by the Rev. Joan Van Becelaere (the District Executive), the Rev. Melissa Carvill-Ziemer (Minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent) and Jolinda Stephens (Director of Religious Education at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbus).

I arrived tonight and was greeted at the airport by the lovely home hospitality host that the Unitarian Universalists in Phoenix had arranged for me. As I write this I am quite comfortably situated and feeling like I will have a good base of operations for the next few days. Tomorrow, starting in the early afternoon, is a day devoted to non-violent direct action training. The law goes into effect on Thursday and Thursday and Friday are the days of the big rallies and protests.

On the flight out here I spent a little bit of time reflecting on both why I am coming and the tradition of civil disobedience and protest. My reasons for coming are fairly simple. On the most basic fundamental level I am here because I think that SB1070 has drawn a line in the sand. If we don’t stop racist legislation like SB1070 in Arizona it will spread to other states. Already in Ohio there is talk of passing similar legislation. I am here because I want to help ensure that the social costs of enacting something like SB1070 are so high they outweigh any perceived benefits. 

I am also here because I care deeply about immigrant communities. Some of my first serious activism as an adult was as a Zapatista solidarity activist. The rural communities I visited in Mexico (and CASA, the human rights organization that I co-founded, continues to work with) have been economically devastated by NAFTA. So many of the people who come to the United States as undocumented immigrants come because of their home communities have been practically destroyed by free trade. I worked with, stood in solidarity with them Mexico, it seems only natural that I would do so here.

My reflections on civil disobedience today largely revolved around Henry David Thoreau’s "Resistance to Civil Government" (usually called "Civil Disobedience") and Martin Luther King’s "Letter from a Birmingham Jail." Thoreau lays out the classic argument for disobedience to unjust laws. I will not rehash that argument here but I will say that it is a powerful and if ever taken seriously to heart by even a substantive minority of people would fundamentally transform society. Indeed one could argue that when it has been taken seriously by social movements, including the civil rights movement, it has transformed society.

Reading "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" I was struck by pertinent to the present situation it is. King wrote the letter while struggling for racial equality. I am here, alongside thousands of others, taking part in the same struggle. We are here to fight racial profiling and demand real, workable, and just immigration reform. King closed his letter by writing: "Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty." Tonight I will let his words serve as my conclusion and my coda.