Arizona UCC to host annual immigration reform conference
Written by Emily Mullins
January 15, 2013

Immigration reform activists will gather for two days of education and community at the 9th Annual Santa Cruz Valley Border Issues Fair and Concert Jan. 18-19 at the Good Shepherd United Church of Christ in Sahuarita, Ariz.

"On one hand, it's about education," said the Rev. Randy Mayer, pastor of the Good Shepherd UCC and the event organizer. "On the other, it's for activists in the trenches doing the work to come together and get reenergized."

The Border Issues Fair comes in the midst of a discussion around immigration in Washington. The Obama Administration has vowed to make immigration reform a reality in its second term, and Mayer and other activists say there is a chance new legislation will be introduced as early as March 2013. Mayer is hopeful for a comprehensive immigration reform bill that will address everything from legalization, to border issues, to the Dream Act, but pushback from Arizona senators John McCain and Jeff Flake may make the situation worse before it gets better.

"The struggle is that people like John McCain and Jeff Flake are pushing for there to be more border patrol and more fences, and they want to seal the Tucson sector before any other immigration reform moves forward," Mayer said. "We don't want that. It's pretty painful to hear that our government will continue to use the border as the sacrificial lamb for comprehensive immigration reform."

Mayer adds that the issue of immigration in the United States has actually gotten worse since the first Border Issues Fair took place nine years ago, with much of the border considered to be "militarized" with thousands of border patrol and Drug Enforcement Administration officials monitoring the area daily. 

"As far as gathering people and being strengthened, we continue to move forward," Mayer said.  "But we never thought this was going to last as long as it has. We've been doing border work for 14 years and never would have imagined our government would have continued these deadly policies for this long."

The January conference will offer lectures and workshops by leading immigration experts, including investigator and documentarian John Carlos Frey, and a spokesperson from the District of Arizona's Federal Public Defender's office. Frey's investigative work has appeared on "60 Minutes" and the PBS news program "Need to Know." His documentary, "Life and Death on the Border," follows the journey of a migrant group from Altar, Mexico across the U.S. border. Humanitarian and advocacy groups will offer informational displays about immigration and undocumented migrant issues. Activist and singer/songwriter Tom Chapin will perform Jan. 18 at 7 p.m. Concert ticket price is $20. A $10 donation is requested for the educational events.

Attendees will include groups from colleges, churches and advocacy organizations from across the United States, as well as individuals seeking more information about immigration issues.

"Our real push is from the Arizona standpoint, which is Ground Zero of the immigration struggle," Mayer said. "But our church is working on everything from humanitarian aid on the border to legislative work."

For more information about the 9th Annual Santa Cruz Valley Border Issue Fair and Concert, contact the Good Shepherd UCC office.

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