“Papers!” the soldier brusquely demanded, rifle hanging menacingly from his soldier. I was on my way from Budapest to Transylvania. Our train had stopped at the Romanian border. Silently, my cabin mates and I handed over our passports. We were not in a position to argue. I was assured this was routine, that my passport would be returned.
Thirty minutes passed. Then an hour. After an hour and a half, I felt anxiety rise. No one I knew had any idea where I was that day. Traveling alone can do strange things to the mind. For a fleeting moment, I worried about being pulled off the train and disappearing. The phrase “being without papers” in a land where I did not speak the language nor understand its customs took on new meaning. When I had my little blue book of identity back, the relief was palpable.
That overly anxious moment came to mind soon after Arizona passed its law to confront the problem of illegal immigration. I am not without sympathy; drug-running has compounded an already difficult problem there. Nonetheless, I join the chorus of condemnation at the act. Perhaps the ensuing uproar will stir our US Congress to face its responsibilities regarding immigration at long last.
Many now propose boycotting Arizona to bring economic pressure to bear on the matter. Earlier this month, our UUA Board of Trustees held an emergency meeting and decided to ask this year’s delegates in Minneapolis whether to pull our 2012 General Assembly out of Phoenix as a way of witnessing to our values and to show our solidarity with those opposing the requirement that (some) Americans must carry “papers” when we travel — at least in Arizona. [Read the UUA Board resolution.]
Two arguments, overly simplified here, are made:
• Because remaining in Arizona would put some of our own people at risk of arrest for appearing — what? — illegal, and because the most efficient way to dismantle bigotry is to strike its pocketbook, we should move our Assembly out of the state.
• The counter-argument is made that we could have greater impact for social justice were we to remain and devote the entire GA to education and faith witness on matters of immigration.
I see merit to both sides and await our debate to help shape my thinking. WUUD? What (should) a Unitarian Universalist do?
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I look forward to seeing many of you at GA! All blessings, Kenn