Bishops' conference files brief opposing Ariz. immigration law

.- The U.S. Catholic bishops' conference asked the Supreme Court to uphold a lower court's judgment against Arizona's controversial immigration law, in an amicus brief filed on March 26.

Joined by two Protestant denominations, the bishops' conference declared its “strong interest in ensuring that courts adhere to two important goals of federal immigration law – the promotion of family unity and the protection of human dignity.”

According to the conference, “the provisions of SB 1070 at issue in this case would hinder these critical federal objectives by replacing them with the single goal of reducing the number of undocumented immigrants in Arizona at all costs.”

On April 25, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case of Arizona v. United States, pitting the state against the federal government over its 2010 immigration law.

Portions of the law were struck down by a lower court in April 2011 – including the requirement for police to check suspects' immigration status, and a provision forcing immigrants to carry proof of legal residency. A section forbidding illegal immigrants from seeking work publicly was also blocked.

While Arizona officials maintain that the measures reflect existing federal law, the federal government itself regards Arizona's law as an infringement on its own authority over immigration.

In their brief, the U.S. bishops' conference encouraged the nation's highest court to uphold the Ninth Circuit decision against portions of the law.

If the law is upheld, they warned, it could give rise to a “patchwork”  of laws in different states – with a chilling effect upon the charitable work of the Church.

Different states, the brief observed, could give different interpretations to a prohibition on “harboring” illegal immigrants. Church leaders have argued that some interpretations of these laws could prohibit many forms of charitable aid to illegal immigrants. 

The bishops' brief also noted that the Church's faith “requires it to offer charity – ranging from soup kitchens to homeless shelters – to all in need, whether they are present in this country legally or not.”

“Yet S.B. 1070 and related state immigration laws have provisions that could either criminalize this charity, criminalize those who provide or even permit it, or require the institutions that provide it to engage in costly – if not impossible – monitoring of the individuals they serve,” the brief argued.

“This in itself, as well as the proliferation of fifty different laws of this kind, would unnecessarily intrude on the Church’s religious liberty.”

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