Taquiena Boston is the Director of Multicultural Growth and Witness, the new staff group resulting from the merger of Advocacy and Witness and Identity-Based Ministries.
When I became Director of Multicultural Growth and Witness on July 1 my first official UUA act was to attend President Obama’s speech on immigration reform at American University. The presence of religious leaders in the hall –- with high-profile evangelical ministers front and center — signaled that faith communities are hearing the call for immigration reform as a moral imperative.
President Obama’s speech referenced not just securing, protecting, and enforcing borders but also the human rights of the people who cross into the United States seeking opportunity. Faith leaders’ took that message further by emphasizing that immigration reform is about the humanity of those who cross the borders.
In multicultural ministry borders or “la frontera” are described as places where encounter, conflict, and transformation can occur when people of faith use our collective power to amplify the voices and concerns of the oppressed. To my mind when Unitarian Universalists voted at the Minneapolis General Assembly to act in solidarity with Puente and others to support immigrant justice, our movement waded into the turbulence of a human rights issue that puts us at odds with the majority of Americans. To paraphrase an African American spiritual, Unitarian Universalists made a commitment to “trouble the borders.”
Now that the U.S. Justice Department has challenged the constitutionality of Arizona’s SB 1070 legislation, I hope that our movement will not think that we can relax our efforts around immigration. The debates among Unitarian Universalists that preceded the General Assembly demonstrated how this issue divides communities. While border security issues in a post 9-11 world are real, laws like Arizona’s SB 1070 that potentially “profile” people based on their racial, ethnic, or national identity creates an environment of fear and mistrust that are anti-Beloved Community.
A footnote: Intent on being on time for President Obama’s speech I hailed a taxi to American University, but one-third of the way to my destination I wondered if my District of Columbia driver’s license would be sufficient “government-issued identification” to allow me entry. Should I ask the taxi to take me back home to get my passport, too? That could mean not getting into the speech as well. Besides, I was urged by the White House contact to in line at American U by 9:30 to ensure entry. Passing a “Homeland Security” sign only reinforced my anxiety about having the right ID. As a woman of color I’m used to having to seriously consider personal safety, but strict laws that make communities fearful and suspicious have never made me feel more secure.