The U.S. Catholic bishops have denounced a new
immigration law in the state of Arizona as "draconian" and called on Congress to stop political "gamesmanship" and pass immigration reform.
Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City, head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ migration committee, said on April 27 that the Arizona law could lead to ethnic profiling and adversely effect how immigrants
are treated nationwide.
Wester, speaking on behalf of fellow bishops, called on the Obama administration to review the law’s impact on civil rights and urged Washington to enact federal immigration reform.
"While many of our federal elected officials have made good faith efforts to pass reform, too many still view the issue through a political lens, using it to gain political or partisan advantage," Wester said in a statement. "This gamesmanship must stop."
He did not say, however, that the bishops would consider filing a lawsuit or legal brief against the bill, as the Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson requested on April 26.
In a letter to parishioners, Kicanas, the vice president of the bishops conference, said he hoped the bishops would file a friend-of-the court brief to suits expected to challenge the new law’s constitutionality.
President Obama has asked the Justice Department to examine the law, which he said threatens to "undermine the basic notions of fairness."
Signed by Governor Jan Brewer on April 23, the bill gives broad new powers to local authorities to detain suspected illegal immigrants. It also makes it a crime to travel without immigration documents or to transport undocumented workers, such as day labourers. Brewer said the law, which is scheduled to take effect in August, is necessary to reduce
"border-related violence and crime due to illegal immigration."
Opponents of the law, including three Catholic bishops in Arizona and broad swaths of religious leaders nationwide, say it amounts to discrimination against the state’s large Hispanic population and could
sow fear in vulnerable communities. Los Angeles
Cardinal Roger Mahony compared the bill to Nazism "whereby people are required to turn one another in to the authorities."
According to the bishops’ conference, Hispanics make up 35 percent of all U.S. Catholics, a number expected to rise in coming decades.