An anti-immigration bill passed by the Arizona House of Representatives on Tuesday is causing growing unrest from the Christian community, who have called the bill anti-Christian and anti-humane.
Senate Bill 1070, which is widely considered as the most stringent immigration law in the country, will empower police officers to demand documentation from immigrants at a moment's notice. It also bans immigrants from soliciting themselves as day laborers. Furthermore, the bill prevents cities from making "sanctuary" policies that would restrict policing efforts against illegal immigration.
In an op-ed in the Arizona Republic, United Church of Christ minister the Rev. Jeffrey D. Dirrim called the measure "immoral," saying that "providing hospitality to immigrants is a foundational aspect of the Christian faith."
"The United States is a nation of immigrants. Our failing drug war and immigration policy should not be a mistaken opportunity for a campaign against many good, hard-working people who pay their taxes, earn an education and add to society," Dirrim said.
"Every U.S. citizen who is not of Native American decent should find that place in their hearts where they can relate to today's immigrants," he added. "For in the faces of the undocumented, we can not only see God but also ourselves."
For Phoenix youth pastor Ian Danley, the new bill will make "racial profiling, which is already an issue in [Arizona]…unavoidable."
"Law enforcement, at the risk of lawsuit, will have to choose to investigate brown people with accents instead of obvious, much larger threats to public safety," Danley said in a blog posting, adding that immigrants are some of his closest friends "who were brought to the U.S. as infants, are now honor students, in my youth group, love Jesus, and are volunteering at church."
Meanwhile, supporters of the bill have defended the measure as being a natural part of law enforcement.
"It sends a message that their jurisdiction is not one where you want to be an illegal alien," Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington told the Los Angeles Times. "That's what most enforcement is about -- not to lock everyone up, but to get voluntary compliance."
Author of the bill Sen. Russell Pearce told the Times that, "When you make life difficult most [immigrants] will leave on their own."
Returning from her recent trip to Mexico, Michelle Obama commented that immigration reform is necessary, but that it needs bipartisan support.
"It's not enough that the president wants it," Mrs. Obama told CNN in an interview. "We need Republicans and Democrats to support it, as well."
"We're seeing young children who are trying to cross the border just to reconnect with their parents, and their lives are in danger," Mrs. Obama said. "They're put in precarious situations. And a strong immigration reform policy would help alleviate some of those challenges."
Meanwhile activist groups are pushing for a bill to be presented in Conress by May 1st, the same day that a major nationwide demonstration for reform is being planned
According to Deepak Bhargava, executive director of the Center for Community Change, if a bill is not presented by that time, reform activists will "begin an intense campaign to demonstrate the inhumanity of current policies and force all Americans to confront these policies."
A statement from the May 1st march organizers says that, "Our broken immigration system hurts millions of families across America. It keeps workers under the exploitative heel of employers, pitting workers against each other when we could be united to move our economy forward. It keeps men, women, and children living in fear of raids, detainment, and deportation."
"Every day that our government doesn't pass immigration reform, the fabric of America is unraveled, and the American dream is deferred," they say.