Arizona Bishops Defend the Vulnerable

Express Concern Over Local Immigration Bills

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PHOENIX, Arizona, MARCH 8, 2010 ( The Arizona bishops are calling on government authorities to defend the most vulnerable: the unborn, children, the elderly and immigrants.

They affirmed this in a statement released today by the Arizona Catholic Conference, in which they said that their «prayers are with all of our elected state representatives as they face very difficult decisions on a number of important issues.»

Among these issues, the bishops underlined the state’s economic needs, urging government officials to «always keep in mind the most vulnerable among us — the unborn, children, the elderly, and all who are struggling just to make ends meet.»

The statement, signed by Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix, Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, and Bishop James Wall of Gallup, New Mexico, expressed particular concern about certain governmental proposals regarding immigrants.

«In particular,» they stated, «it is our understanding that SB 1070 and HB 2632 are identical bills aimed at requiring greater enforcement of immigration laws by local police.»

The prelates expressed concern that these bills do not «clearly state that undocumented persons who become victims of crime can come forward without fear of deportation.»

«Anything that may deter crimes from being reported or prosecuted will only keep dangerous criminals on the streets, making our communities less safe,» they pointed out.

Family separation

The statement underlined another aspect of the bills, which would make Arizona «the first state in the nation to codify its own illegal immigration law by requiring persons who are here unlawfully in terms of federal law to be charged with trespassing» under state law.

«The bill itself does not limit enforcement to persons suspected of criminal activity,» it noted, «thus leaving the possibility of criminalizing the presence of even children and young persons brought into our country by their parents.»

The prelates asserted that these bills «could lead to separation of family members that would not take place under current federal law.»

«We believe it would be far better to withdraw these bills than to risk costly and unfairly punitive enforcement,» they stated.

The bishops acknowledged that the problems with the immigration systems are «complex,» and they expressed the hope that congress will enact «comprehensive immigration reform.»

«In the meantime,» they continued, «we are concerned that local legislation not create new problems for families or have a negative impact on public safety.»

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