Written by Gregg Brekke
The National Council of Churches and other religious organizations have sharply criticized Arizona's new immigration law as fundamentally unjust, dangerous to citizens and non-citizens alike, and a rejection of centuries-old biblical precepts of justice and neighborliness.
The Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, NCC General Secretary, who last week urged Arizona Governor Jan Brewer to veto the legislation, reiterated the view of NCC member communions and Arizona religious leaders "that this legislation will not contribute to the reform of our nation's immigration system" and may stimulate similar anti-immigrant legislation throughout the country.
Governor Brewer signed the measure into law April 23.
The new law makes it a crime to fail to carry immigration documents and gives law enforcement authority to detain anyone suspected of being in the country illegally.
"In addition to the basic unjustness of the law, the fact that police now have vaguely defined but broad powers to stop anyone on suspicion of being an undocumented immigrants creates an unacceptable potential for wide-spread police harassment and creates a danger for citizens as well as non-citizens," Kinnamon said.
The Rev. Dr. David Leslie, Executive Director of the Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon and chair of the National Council of Churches/Church World Service Immigration Task Force, said, "The task force is committed to further mobilizing churches across the nation to oppose this type of legislation in other states, as well as work for the overturning of the legislation in Arizona. We will also continue our efforts to push forward real immigration reform based on the shared religious principles of true justice, dignity of all people and the rule of law that protects all people fairly."
In signing the bill, Governor Brewer said she would ensure that the police are trained to implement the law without violating citizen's rights. But she contended the law provides an indispensable tool for the police in a border state where illegal immigration is rife. She said racial profiling would not be tolerated, adding, "We have to trust our law enforcement."
But Kinnamon expressed doubt the law could be enforced with that kind of care.
"This law will detract law enforcement from dealing with the criminal element, increase racial profiling, (and) cause even greater distress to families and society in general as large immigrant populations would be pushed even further into the shadows of our communities," he said.
In addition, the law undermines "the efforts of institutions like the ones we serve to build communities of justice and peace for all people," Kinnamon said.
Original article online at NCC News.