US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Arizona passes anti-immigration law - UPDATE 4/23

By Father Tom Joyce, CMF | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

Last week the Arizona state house and senate passed the most restrictive state measure against undocumented immigrants. Already the state has among the most restrictive laws against hiring them. Now police can stop anyone in the state to ask for documented proof they are here legally.

While it would not be a trespass being undocumented in Arizona, the police can charge them with a misdemeanor subject to a $500 fine. There are also provisions that make it unlawful to give a ride to the undocumented, though this is already covered by federal law (see Arizona Republic).

Protests were quickened by the Arizona Senate's passage of the bill. Prayer vigils are around the clock at the governor's suburban Phoenix home and protesters have been arrested. Gov. Jan Brewer has until Saturday to sign or veto the law. She can do nothing and the bill becomes law automatically. She is reported to be undecided. She favors restriction, but is uncertain about conflict with federal law and its impact on Arizona (see Arizona Republic).

One reason the governor hesitates is that there will be immediate court challenges. These would be drawn out and expensive. Also how the rest of the country responds is in question. Not all the response is negative. Some states are looking closely at the law to replicate in their state legislative houses. Washington also is looking carefully (see Arizona Republic).

The most widely publicized critique of the law came from Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles, who denounced the bill as "retrogressive, mean-spirited, and useless." It implies that the undocumented come to this country to "rob, plunder, and to consume public resources." The implication that people can turn in the undocumented, at least to him, smacks of the techniques used in Nazi Germany and Communist Russia. The cardinal blames not only the Arizona legislature, but points a finger at the Obama administration for not moving on comprehensive immigration reform (see Los Angeles Times).

4/22 Update: Reactions to the bill

The restrictive immigration bill passed by the Arizona legislature has stirred strong response across the nation. Cardinal Roger Mahony  of Los Angeles made comparisons to Nazis and Communists, and that provoked the bill's parent, Sen. Russell Pearce, to retort that one who protected pedophile priest is the last one to speak (see Los Angeles Times).

The Governor, Jan Brewer, has not indicated whether she will sign the bill. She's getting plenty of advice and has until Saturday.

More serious local concern on the impact of the law comes from the business community and the police chiefs. Businesses tied to tourism and conventions are upset by what negative impression it will give visitors--especially free-spending conventioners. The food industry and manufacturing, which employs many of the undocumented, is also disturbed by the hassle of checking on immigration status of their workers. Business developers see it also as a disincentive for businesses to move to Arizona (see Arizona Republic).

The police are divided--the cop on the beat likes it, but the police chiefs who have to find the money to pay for it don't (see Arizona Republic).

The New York Times reports that Governor Jan Brewer has signed the bill.