“Arizona is now the frontline for the struggle of rights and liberties – ground zero for the struggle for justice in this nation,” says none other than Dr. Cornel West. Having been there and having felt the heart of this battle, I would agree. I was in Phoenix, AZ in the first week of October as part of an IMAN and United Congress of Community and Religious Organizations (UCCRO) delegation that drove down to do Voter Registration work with Promise Arizona (PAZ) and to be in solidarity with our Latino brothers and Latina sisters. PAZ is fighting through the political system in Arizona to stop and reverse the effects of SB 1070, the discriminatory state law that is separating immigrant families.
Once there, I had the feeling right away that this struggle is broader than immigration rights, in more than one way. It is broad in that I could see my own struggles and those of other marginalized communities in it, and it is also broad in terms of the impact it could have on what kind of society we will have in America, now and into the future: Either a society where basic dignity and meaningful citizenship is continually expanded to include a diversity of individuals and groups, or a society that limits such dignity and citizenship to the already privileged individuals and groups.
While in AZ, I saw a community in fear and facing uncertainty, but also a community that is defiant, digging in for the long fight and starting to find its voice. However, I also saw something that concerns me a little; the immigrant Latino/Latina community in AZ mostly stands alone in this fight, at least right now.
Building movements of solidarity between marginalized people is indispensable to meaningful and long-term successes in the face of many of these struggles. While we were down there, we sent two delegations – one to a local African American church and the other to a local mosque – but building solidarity needs time, prioritization and can sometimes be hard to do in the heat of a struggle. It needs a long-term focus and commitment.
One last feeling I came back with was of gratification. I am thankful and proud that IMAN and UCCRO decided to send this long-distance delegation to stand in solidarity with the Latino community in their moments of struggle. I will be looking forward to other events and engagements around the issue of immigration in the near future. These problems are longstanding and complex and the response required to resolve them in a manner that enhances the dignity and opportunities of all must be equally sophisticated and long-term.