Boycott AZ ??

The General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association is currently scheduled to be in Phoenix, AZ in 2012.   The question has arisen in light of the recent draconian law passed that allows police to check the immigration status of people that they have a “reasonable suspicion” as being undocumented is whether or not the General Assembly should remain scheduled in Arizona for 2012. Should the UUA boycott the state because this new law and the bill that is awaiting the governor’s signature would ban ethnic studies and teachers who teach English with accents?

Add to this mix the  possibility of Colorado and six other states passing similar laws this year.  Add to this the impact of a boycott on the people we want to support.  Add to this the impact of boycotts and sanctions America has placed on oppressive regimes like Iran and North Korea and the negative  consequences  of increasing the suffering of their citizens.  The very opposite of what we had hoped.

The idea of a boycott,  in my mind anyway, seems to be a knee jerk reaction which does nothing but make the boycotter feel and think they are doing something about an issue they disagree with.  When in fact, it does little to re-mediate the situation.

There is a very good possibility that additional states will have passed similar or even more restrictive laws this year and by 2012, we could be seeing not just one state with draconian immigration laws that racially profile a population but an entire region of states.   What if by next year, North Carolina has proposed / passed a similar law–are we going to boycott our hosting of the  General Assembly in North Carolina? Are we going to boycott them all?

This action of boycott while it may feel good in the moment–may not be the best answer to change the laws.  We need to focus our attention on Washington to pass a comprehensive immigration reform that will not only protect the citizens of our states of the issues that illegal immigration produces but also immigration reform that protects the dignity and inherent worth of the people who have come to our country looking for a better life.  The combined laws and bills passed in Arizona represent in my mind something far more sinister than deporting immigrants who are here illegally.

Perhaps what we can do as a religious denomination  that will have a greater impact is to go to Phoenix in 2012 and as a silent vigil  of protest march in the streets with our passports held high in our hands because that is where this nation is headed.  Symbolically it speaks of fascist countries where papers were required to prove ones race and religion.   We have been a country where its citizens were free to travel without restriction, without harassment anywhere within our borders.

But it cannot begin and end there.  We must write our representatives both state and federal about true immigration reform and map it out in detail what that would look like.  Not just screaming that we want reform and allow the lobbyists and corporations to then dictate what can and cannot be in the reform, but detail out what true immigration reform looks like. And then press the issue home at every turn we make.

It is a very complicated and difficult issue to ponder.  I have a greater appreciation of Bernard Loomer’ s Size of God stance when I think of this issue and what solutions might be available. It is not a simple answer like boycott AZ in 2012.  It is a more multi-layered answer than that each with their own set of negative consequences attached.  We need to weigh our actions carefully.