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Immigration and the Church

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.

Understanding springs from Idaho dialogue

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In this era of polarized politics and religion, one of the more contentious issues in both realms is immigration. The debate over the topic can quickly become heated and ugly, and it’s the rare occasion when opposing sides listen long enough to hear the other’s point of view.

That state of things may be beneficial to screaming talk-show venues and op-ed pages, but what about the church?

A 'maddening' system, from courtrooms to shelters

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Tucson, Ariz. -- Each day at the Evo A. DeConcini U.S. Courthouse here, 70 undocumented migrants are seated in orderly rows, hushed like a quiet congregation in long pews in the low light of a modern courtroom.

On this day Judge Bernardo P. Velasco took little more than a half hour to call rank after rank of migrants to a line of microphones in front of the bench. The script was simple -- questions delivered through an interpreter established that the defendants are citizens of other countries, mostly Mexico with a few from Guatemala, and that they knew they could have an individual trial, subpoena and cross-examine witnesses and refuse to testify.

The choreography was precise and efficient. From the benches to the microphones to an exit the defendants shuffled, handcuffed and shackled, attorneys in tow. They disappeared, most of them to be processed, sent to prison for periods ranging from the few days already served to 185 days and then returned to their country of origin. Such is the dance of Operation Streamline, one component of the federal government’s attempt to clamp down on illegal immigration. The intent of the program, which began in Texas in 2005 and in Tucson in 2008, is to add quick consequences for those illegally crossing the border from Mexico to the United States.

'I didn't have to be afraid of the border anymore'

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Tucson, Ariz. -- What Leo Guardado most remembers about crossing the border back in 1991 was moving along in moonlit shadows, trying, as a 9-and-a-half-year-old, to stay low and to keep his own shadow from showing.

He realizes, as he talks about it, that most of his memories of that 26-day trip play out in moonlight, because it was almost always night when he and his mother, Maria, and about seven others from their small hamlet in Chalatenango, a northern province in El Salvador, moved through deserts and jungle-like terrain and crossed rivers to get to Tijuana, Mexico, and the short final scramble to San Diego.

In the two decades since, Guardado became a successful student (he was wait-listed at Yale and offered a full ride and stipend by Swarthmore College before choosing St. Mary’s College of California), studied in Spain, earned a master’s degree in religious studies at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, and currently is engaged in a long project of testing his attraction to a life with the Trappists.

North, Central America bishops speak on immigration concerns

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From the media office of the U.S. bishops' conference.

REGION’S BISHOPS EXPRESS CONCERN OVER IMMIGRANTS DEATHS, CALL GOVERNMENTS TO ACTION

WASHINGTON -- Catholic bishops of the North and Central American region and the Caribbean, who are in charge of the pastoral care of migrants, gathered in San Jose, Costa Rica, June 1-3, 2011. A joint declaration after the meeting was made public June 30. The prelates, representing the bishops’ conferences of the United States, Mexico, Costa Rica, Panamá, Honduras and Guatemala, as well as CELAM (Council of Bishops’ Conferences of Latin America) and CARITAS International gathered to express solidarity and concern over the plight of immigrants in the Hemisphere. They were joined by religious and lay experts on issues of migration.

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