Arizona church leaders call for legal, congressional responses to law

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson, Ariz., one of many religious leaders decrying Arizona’s new immigration law, said he will ask the general counsel of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to become involved in lawsuits expected to challenge its constitutionality

In his “Monday Memo” posting on the diocesan website April 26, Bishop Kicanas said he believes the law needs to be challenged for reasons beyond the constitutional questions that many opponents of the bill have raised.

Among his objections to the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, signed April 23, are that it “does not address the critical need for border security to confront drug smuggling, weapons smuggling and human trafficking.” He also objected to the law on the grounds that it “sends a wrong message about how our state regards the importance of civil rights;” distracts local law enforcement from their primary role in protecting public safety and puts additional pressure on depleted law enforcement resources; discourages people from reporting crimes if they lack legal immigration status; makes criminals out of children who were brought to the United States by their parents; risks splitting families apart; and could cause further damage to an already strained state economy.

In a phone interview with Catholic News Service April 23, Bishop Kicanas said he hopes violence will not result from the tension in Arizona that led to the law’s passage by the legislature and has accompanied its signing by Gov. Jan Brewer. “I hope that whatever is done will be civil and not lead to violence,” he said. “Emotions can lead to irrational behavior.”

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