WASHINGTON (ABP) — Religious events across the country are being planned this weekend to protest Arizona's new law giving police more power to crack down on illegal immigration. Critics said the bill, signed into law April 23 by Gov. Jan Brewer, encourages racial profiling and illustrates the need for comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level.
"We are deeply concerned about the enactment of SB 1070 as it goes beyond anti-immigrant sentiments and supports racial profiling," John McCullough, executive director of Church World Service said in a statement. "This legislation feels reactionary and hateful. It is a clear representation of the politics of division and exclusion."
The law makes it a state crime for illegal immigrants to not have an alien registration document. It also would require police to question people about their immigration status if there's reason to suspect they're in the country illegally.
Speaking on behalf of the relief-and-development organization of the National Council of Churches — an ecumenical body with 36 member communions including the Alliance of Baptists; American Baptist Churches USA; National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Inc.; National Missionary Baptist Convention of America and Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc. — McCullough urged the Obama administration to do "everything in its power to prevent its implementation and the consequences it will have for human rights."
Other progressive faith leaders joined McCullough in denouncing the measure. Jim Wallis of Sojourners called it "a social and racial sin."
"This law will make it illegal to love your neighbor in Arizona, and will force us to disobey Jesus and his gospel," Wallis said. "We will not comply."
Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, said the new law makes Arizona "the state with the most xenophobic and nativist laws in the country." Rodriguez called for "a multi-ethnic firewall against the extremists in our nation who desire to separate us rather than bring us together."
"I fear that all we aspire to be as a nation is in jeopardy with today's passing of SB1070 by Governor Brewer in Arizona," Noel Castellanos, CEO of the Christian Community Development Association, said after the bill's signing. "On behalf of millions of Christians throughout our nation, we lament the passing of this legislation and will do all we can to stand on the side of families effected by this divisive new law."
Faith in Public Life has scheduled a press conference later in the week to kick off a series of faith-based events calling for urgent action for immigration reform.
President Obama called the Arizona law irresponsible and said he has instructed members of his administration to study civil-rights and other implications of the legislation. "If we continue to fail to act at a federal level, we will continue to see misguided efforts opening up around the country," he predicted.
Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.