In a stunning display of outrage and shocking words, Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony has denounced an Arizona crackdown on illegal immigrants that forces people to turn each other in as the same techniques used by "German Nazi and Russian Communist(s)."
"The Arizona legislature just passed the country's most retrogressive, mean-spirited, and useless anti-immigrant law," he wrote on his blog, according to the Los Angeles Times. "The tragedy of the law is its totally flawed reasoning: that immigrants come to our country to rob, plunder, and consume public resources. That is not only false, the premise is nonsense."
The Arizona law passed by the Republican-dominated legislature Monday but needing Gov. Jan Brewer's signature would make it a crime to be in the state illegally and require law enforcement officers without probable cause to check the legal status of those they suspect are undocumented.
Mahony is the head of the nation's largest Roman Catholic archdiocese and a powerful, influential voice among Catholics and others nationwide. His comments are the highest-level statement from the Catholic hierarchy on the Arizona legislation. The Los Angeles archdiocese is nearly 70% Latino.
Taking a more moderate stance against the legislation were Tuscon Diocese Bishop Gerald Kicanas who spearheaded other leaders from the Roman Catholic Church in writing a letter urging the governor to "show great political courage" and veto the bill.
The letter, according to the Times, said the law would hurt the economy and reduce public safety by diverting police resources and discouraging Mexicans from reporting crimes.
The bishop said parishes in his diocese have participated in "immigration academies" to learn about the issue and how Scripture and church teachings apply to it. In Leviticus, for instance, God instructs Moses not to mistreat aliens and to welcome them as if they were native-born, the Times reported.
The final version of the law dropped an earlier provision mandating people to report suspected illegal immigrants to authorities. Instead, it mandates only police when such action is "practicable." The law would not sanction owners who hire illegal immigrants.
"It's pretty clear that all of our religious traditions speak of welcoming the stranger and assisting people in need," Kicanas said. "I believe this is a drastic, punitive measure that will not benefit the states."
Arizona lawmakers in debating the bill said they are fed up with the federal government's inability to control the border. Triggering the legislation was a rancher killed by suspected illegal immigrants recently. Homeland Security claims the illegal immigrant population in Arizona has increased 70% between 2000 and 2008. Riding the wave of the publicity, Arizona Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl yesterday demanded the Obama administration to send more troops to protect the border. The Arizona law is understandable as a knee-jerk reaction but still Draconian by its edicts. Cardinal Mahoney's words only pour gasoline on a firestorm. McCain and Kyl are playing to the gallery. Gov. Brewer should veto the bill.
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