Immigration and the Church

Churches lose fight over Ala. immigration law


HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- A federal judge jolted the national immigration debate on Sept. 28 by approving most parts of Alabama’s aggressive immigration law that religious leaders had called the “meanest” in the nation.

In a ruling hailed by many state officials, U.S. District Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn refused to block much of Alabama’s far-reaching immigration law from going into effect.

Blackburn’s decision came after three separate challenges were filed by the U.S. Department of Justice; Catholic, Episcopal and United Methodist bishops; and a coalition of civil rights groups, unions and individuals who said they would be harmed by the law.

The Justice Department argued that immigration law enforcement rests with the federal government, and that states could not set up their own systems. Blackburn disagreed, saying Alabama’s efforts mirrored the federal government’s or were complementary.

Plaintiffs, led by the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama, said they will seek an emergency delay of Blackburn’s order pending an appeal to the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Deportee ministers to migrants with grace, humility



NOGALES, Mexico -- On a recent Sunday morning, roughly 30 people squeezed into the Nogales living room of Adan Magdariaga. All were present for the house church service intended to bring together regular worshippers, recently arrived migrants, and humanitarian aid workers with whom Magdariaga has become friends.

Magdariaga was deported from the U.S. in January, following two years of detention in the Eloy Immigration Detention Center, a private prison-like facility run by the Corrections Corporation of America. He had been presented with the option of staying in that facility to continue fighting his immigration removal case, or to accept a deportation and work on the case from Mexico.

His decision found him returning to Mexico, a homeland he had not known since 1975, when he migrated to the United States as a teenager. Upon leaving the detention facility, he carried nothing but a few dollars in his pocket and the clear, plastic bag that held his belongings.

Catholic official among opponents of Penn. immigration bills


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


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


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


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


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


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


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.



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