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CURRENT ISSUE:  August 9, 2010
VOL. 48, NO. 14   •   Oakland, CA
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Bishops commend ruling
on Arizona immigration law

Rosamaria Soto, left, and Georgina Sanchez decorate a makeshift shrine as people pray outside the state capitol in Phoenix during a July 28 protest against Arizona’s controversial S.B. 1070 immigration law.

PHOENIX (CNS) — Arizona’s Catholic bishops were among religious leaders who praised a July 28 ruling that blocked enforcement of the most controversial sections of the state’s immigration law a day before it took effect.
They also voiced a hope “that reaction to (the) ruling will be expressed only in peaceful and legal ways.”

Los Angeles Cardinal Roger M. Mahony and Salt Lake City Bishop John C. Wester, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ migration committee, also weighed in in support of the ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton that imposed an injunction against the key elements of the law, known as S.B.1070.

As the remaining portions of the law took effect July 29, protests, prayer services and other activities were held in Phoenix and other cities across the U.S.

At an interfaith prayer at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in downtown Phoenix, Christians, Jewish and Muslim leaders prayed that the federal government will enact comprehensive immigration reform.

“We need to remember our Christian principles, the values of Jesus Christ,” Phoenix Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares said in a bilingual message. “We need to understand that (immigrants) enrich our society. Our movement is about achieving human dignity for everyone on our shores. So let us not become the oppressors, but instead put on the fruits of the Holy Spirit.”

United Methodist Bishop Minerva Carcano spoke of the Gospel’s call to welcome the immigrant, saying S.B.1070 runs counter to that message.

“The concept is this: enforcement through attrition, to make life so difficult for immigrants that they leave the state,” the bishop said.

Since the April signing of the law, immigrants have been leaving. But, despite their departure, the state’s economy hasn’t improved, Bishop Carcano said.

“We will no longer tolerate our government leaders’ political posturing on immigration,” she said. “President (Barack) Obama needs to know we no longer forgive his lack of leadership on immigration reform.”

Many of the speakers noted the prayerful efforts of an interfaith group who held a vigil on the state Capitol lawn for 102 days.

“I always had a lot of faith. We made this effort to stop the law,” said Rosa Maria Soto, who prayed with the group hours after the judge’s ruling.

“But we have to keep working, we must keep nurturing our faith,” she said. “I feel like the judge stopped those aspects which would have affected us the most, but we know the fight could last years.”

Margaret Wolford and other members of Pax Christi Phoenix also went to the Capitol after the ruling. She described her reaction as “cautiously optimistic.”

“The judge struck down the meat of it, but there’s still a way to go,” Wolford said.In his statement July 28, Cardinal Mahony praised the ruling. “This entire Arizona attempt to deal with various immigration issues outside federal law reveals once again the level of frustration across the country that the U.S. Congress will not deal with, the pressing issue of needed immigration reform,” he said.

“Without needed congressional action, local communities and states will continue to propose stopgap measures which do not address all aspects of needed immigration reform,” he added.

Bolton blocked provisions in the law that would have: required law enforcement officers to verify the immigration status of anyone stopped; made it a crime for immigrants not to carry proof of their immigration status at all times; allowed police to make warrantless arrests over suspicion of someone being in the country illegally; and criminalized the act of looking for work without the proper paperwork or hiring someone who lacks a work permit.

Bolton’s injunction is preliminary, pending further judicial review of legal challenges, primarily that of the U.S. Department of Justice. A full course of legal challenges could take years.

Other provisions were allowed to take effect, including one permitting lawsuits against individuals, state agencies and political subdivisions for “adopting a policy of restricting enforcement of federal immigration laws to less than the full extent permitted by federal law.”

In his statement, Bishop Wester called the ruling “the right decision.”

“Any law that provides legal cover to profiling affects all members of our communities, including legal residents and citizens. It is a very slippery slope. What is needed now is for Congress and the administration to live up to their responsibilities and address this issue by passing immigration reform.”

The Arizona bishops, in a statement issued by the Arizona Catholic Conference, their public policy arm, said apprehension about the law was widespread.

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