National Catholic Reporter

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Immigration and the Church

Catholic official among opponents of Penn. immigration bills

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PHILADELPHIA -- A series of bills introduced in the Pennsylvania Legislature this session as the "National Security Begins at Home Legislative Package" could harm citizens and legal permanent residents as well as undocumented immigrants, a Catholic official told legislators.

"Every human possesses inherent dignity, regardless of his or her immigration status," said Mark Shea, administrator of the immigration program of Philadelphia archdiocesan Catholic Social Services, at a hearing of the Committee on State Government of the House of Representatives Aug. 31 in Harrisburg.

He was testifying on behalf of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the state's Catholic bishops.

One proposed bill, H.B. 738, would make it a misdemeanor for a "person who is unlawfully present in the United States to knowingly apply for work, solicit work in a public place or perform work as an employee or independent contractor" in Pennsylvania.

New Ala. immigration law treading on religious freedom, bishop says

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A federal judge issued a temporary hold Aug. 29 on Alabama's new immigration law, saying she needed more time to address the challenges to the law.

The hold from U.S. District Judge Sharon Blackburn will last until Sept. 29 or until the court issues a ruling on the motions to block the law, the news site Politico reported.

The law, which was supposed to go into effect Sept. 1, would make it illegal for anyone to knowingly employ a person who is not a citizen and lacks the proper papers, as well as outlining other requirements of identification and documentation, including requiring schools to check citizenship status of students.

In June, Alabama passed the law, which opponents and proponents call one of the toughest and broadest immigration laws in the country. Four religious leaders have joined together and filed a lawsuit against the statute.

"This statute is so broadly written that it interferes with the freedom of the church," said Mobile, Ala., Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi, on why he filed a lawsuit against the statute with three other bishops.

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.

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