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Immigration and the Church

Religious leaders battle Alabama immigration law

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Alabama religious leaders have filed statements in federal court expressing their concern that a new immigration law would interfere with the practice of their religion and Christian mandates to minister to all people.

Bishops in the Episcopal, United Methodist and Roman Catholic churches and 17 other church ministry leaders on Wednesday (Aug. 17) filed affidavits in the federal court lawsuits that seek to block enforcement of the new law.

Their lawsuit was consolidated with those filed by the U.S. Justice Department and Hispanic advocacy groups that also sought to void the new state law.

Most of the provisions of Alabama’s new immigration law go into effect Sept. 1.

The bishops in their affidavits described their churches’ ministries, including those designed to help feed, clothe and shelter the poor.

“In providing or supporting these ministries, we do not—and would not—refuse to assist any person in need because he or she lacked legal immigration status,” said Episcopal Bishop of Alabama Henry Parsley.

Migrant murder comes amid rising tensions for Mexican shelter

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MEXICO CITY -- Two police officers in suburban Mexico City have been arrested for detaining a Guatemalan migrant and handing him over to individuals who accused of him assault for 500 pesos, or $40. The migrant was subsequently murdered.

The newspaper Reforma reported that Julio Cardona Agustin, 19, was beaten, struck with stones and found dead Aug. 7 near the St. Juan Diego Migrant House. The shelter serves the hoards of undocumented Central Americans stealing rides on trains, passing through the rail yards in the northern suburb of Tultitlan.

"This is part of the xenophobia the shelter is experiencing," the shelter director, Father Hugo Montoya Ontiveros, said in a radio interview Aug. 18.

Father Montoya said Cardona arrived in Mexico City Aug. 1 with a caravan promoting better treatment for Central American migrants, but obtained a visa and left the shelter Aug. 6 with plans of heading for the United States. Cardona spent the day begging in the area and later drinking, before heading toward the shelter area for the night, Reforma reported.

N.M. bishops back driver's licenses for undocumented

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SANTA FE, N.M. -- Allowing undocumented immigrants living in New Mexico to have a driver's license if they can provide a valid ID is a matter of "mercy, fairness and safety," said the state's three Catholic bishops.

"We are in favor of allowing individuals without Social Security numbers to obtain licenses provided that they present other acceptable forms of identification, such as a valid passport, consular identification card, or other recognized government-issued documents, currently required by present law," they said.

In Utah, a "kinder, gentler" approach to immigration?

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NAM Editor's Note: The battle over immigration is now being waged at the state level. Since Arizona's immigration law SB 1070 went into effect one year ago, five states -- Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah -- have passed similar laws.

While some states have enacted enforcement-only measures, Utah has attempted to take a different approach. A group of community leaders in the state have signed onto the Utah Compact, a statement of five principles designed to promote a civil policy debate over immigration in Utah.

New immigration law makes Christian charity illegal, say church leaders

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MOBILE, Ala. (CNS) -- Alabama's new immigration law will affect "every part" of undocumented immigrants' lives and make "the exercise of our Christian religion" illegal, Mobile's archbishop said in an Aug. 1 letter to Catholics.

"Both supporters and opponents of the law agree that it is the broadest and strictest immigration law in the country," he said.

Mobile Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi, Bishop Robert J. Baker of the Catholic Diocese of Birmingham, Bishop Henry N. Parsley Jr. of the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama and Methodist Bishop William H. Willimon have joined together in a lawsuit challenging the law, which is supposed to take effect Sept. 1.

Part of California tuition aid bill for undocumented students now law

LOS ANGELES -- Marking what community leaders labeled as a milestone and a historic moment, California Gov. Jerry Brown July 25 signed a portion of the state's DREAM Act and urged Californians to "invest in the people" and to "engage in the debate."

"It is crucial to make an investment in every child that lives and is born in California," he said during a noon town hall meeting at Los Angeles City College, packed with community and business leaders, state and school officials, students and consuls from different Latin American countries.

"Signing the DREAM Act is another piece of investment in people," he continued, "because people are what drive the culture of the economy in our country."

Although elated, members of the California Dream Network that reaches more than 20,000 undocumented students on 42 campuses said they will not celebrate until the entire bill becomes law.

Immigrants in Georgia, Alabama worried about effects of new laws

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DALTON, Ga. -- Latin rhythms played by the two guitarists, a drummer and three women singers spilled out of the parish hall at St. Joseph Church in Dalton.

Hundreds of women, men and children swayed, raised their hands in prayer and danced to the loud, upbeat music.

"This is our strength," Roxana Quezada said, referring to how the community is dealing with the tense atmosphere surrounding immigration issues in the community.

"We know God is here for us," said Quezada, 25, a former illegal immigrant who is now a naturalized American. She works as a licensed practical nurse and is a mother of one with a second child on the way.

A drop in Mass attendance, divisions in the faith community, fear: That's the situation facing Catholics in northwest Georgia as they confront the tough new state immigration law. Pastors are seeing their Hispanic parishioners wrestle with its impact.

A walk in the dark: patrolling with the Samaritans

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Commentary

"That's Gray Well," said Bob, pointing to an old-fashioned windmill as we pulled into a spot of shade. It sang a dark, galvanized song as the breeze turned it around and around. We'd been on the road for a couple hours, half of it on a remote, twisting road. I had come to the Coronado National Forest, near the border in Arizona, to see migration for myself.

Olga, Leo and I got out and stretched our legs, talking about the life of the migrant. We were a dental technician, a church worker, a retired paramedic and ranger, and an astronomer. Soon Leo will walk the Camino de Santiago in Spain; while most Americans are waking up and wondering what to wear, Olga searches for dark matter in the hearts of galaxies.

Whether they are Buddhist, Catholic, Quaker or Unitarian, when it comes to saving lives in the desert, people in this movement are all of the same communion. Today I would learn one more way this is done, looking for migrants in trouble, left behind and lost, disabled, sick from drinking cattle water. The weather had been cool but it had not rained, reducing the risk for now.

DREAM Act supporters plan push in September

WASHINGTON -- As the effort to pass the DREAM Act hits its 10th anniversary, churches, synagogues and mosques around the country will devote a September weekend to teaching their congregations about the faith-based reasons to work for its passage.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., flanked by priests, bishops, rabbis, ministers and an imam, announced July 12 in a news conference at the Capitol that Sept. 23-25 will be DREAM Act Sabbath. Faith leaders said they and their fellows would devote time during or after worship services to explaining the legislation and offering testimony from young people who would be affected by it, all geared toward mustering legislative support.

The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act has been a perennial effort sponsored by Durbin. The version currently before the Senate, S. 952, has 34 co-sponsors.

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November 21-December 5, 2014

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