WASHINGTON (RNS) — Religious leaders are outraged over a bill passed by Arizona legislators that criminalizes illegal immigration, calling the bill “anti-immigrant” and a “social sin.”
Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony compared aspects of the legislation, approved April 19 by the Arizona Senate, to “reverting to German Nazi and Russian Communist techniques whereby people are required to turn one another in to the authorities.”
But the Los Angeles Times reported that the latest version of the legislation would not mandate people to report suspected illegal immigrants to authorities, although an earlier version had such a requirement of public agencies. An amendment said law enforcement officers should take such action “when practicable.”
Jim Wallis, founder and president of the anti-poverty group Sojourners, was among faith leaders calling for Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer to veto the legislation.
“This law is a social sin, and would make it illegal for the faith community of Arizona to extend God’s love and charity to some of our most vulnerable neighbors,” he said.
A dozen leaders from across Arizona, representing Catholic, Protestant and Jewish faiths, wrote Brewer, seeking her veto.
“Our concern is that this bill could make felons, not only out of dangerous criminals (as is warranted), but also the many undocumented immigrants who have come to this country at a very young age and have no familiarity with any other country but the United States,” they wrote.