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Immigration and the Church

Economists project remittance increase

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STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- José Cedillo used to work as a fabric salesman in Mexico City, but since he came to Staten Island four years ago he has been working any job he can find to support his three children while they attend college in Mexico. For the past two years he’s been cleaning, doing maintenance and restocking the food pantry at El Centro del Imigrante, a day worker center in the New York City borough’s Port Richmond neighborhood. Before this, he worked construction jobs.

Not enough to stem the tide

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ACTEAL, MEXICO -- Thirteen years have passed since the massacre of 45 men, women and children in a Catholic chapel here in December 1997. Their relatives and neighbors scattered, afraid to return home or go to their fields to harvest their coffee crop.

Determination overcame fear, however, and a few years later the farmers founded Maya Vinic -- which means “Mayan man” -- a coffee and honey cooperative that rose from the ashes of tragedy.

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.

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