US Bishops Decry Arizona Immigration Law

Propose Importance of Education on the Need for Reform

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WASHINGTON, D.C., APRIL 27, 2010 ( The U.S. bishops joined their voices to those of Arizona prelates in denouncing the highly controversial immigration law passed Friday in Arizona.

In a statement today, Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City, chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Migration, called the law «draconian.»

The measure directs police to question people about their immigration status if there is reason to suspect they are illegal.

«[The measure] gives law enforcement officials powers to detain and arrest individuals based on a very low legal standard, possibly leading to the profiling of individuals based upon their appearance, manner of speaking, or ethnicity,» Bishop Wester cautioned. «It could lead to the wrongful questioning and arrest of U.S. citizens and permanent residents as well as the division of families — parents from children and husbands from wives. 

«It certainly would lead to the rise in fear and distrust in immigrant communities, undermining the relationships between their members and law enforcement officials.»

The prelate said the law could have a nationwide impact on «how members of our immigrant communities are both perceived and treated.»

No federal leadership

Bishop Wester proposed that the Arizona measure is «symptomatic of the absence of federal leadership on the issue of immigration.»

He reminded that bishops have been calling for reform for years. But, he said, too many elected officials «still view the issue through a political lens, using it to gain political or partisan advantage. This gamesmanship must stop.»

«Our national leaders must educate the American public on the need for reform and show courage in making it happen,» the bishop added. «Until immigration reform is passed, other states will attempt to create and enforce immigration law, with harsh and ineffective consequences.

«The U.S. Catholic bishops stand in solidarity with the bishops of Arizona in opposing this draconian law. We call upon the administration to review its impact on civil rights and liberties. 

«We renew our call for the administration and Congress to work in a bipartisan manner to enact comprehensive immigration reform as soon as possible.»

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