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Criminalizing the Good Samaritan in Alabama

October 27, 2011, 10:52 am | Posted by Kristin Ford
immigration1.jpgWe’ve written before about anti-immigrant legislation in Alabama and other states, which continue to earn criticism from the faith community, political leaders, and various courts. Alabama’s law was particularly stringent in that it would threaten church ministries to undocumented immigrants, and prominent Protestant and Catholic bishops in Alabama have been a vocal part of the fight against the anti-immigrant law, signing onto a lawsuit challenging the law. The suit read in part (emphasis added):

If enforced, Alabama’s Anti-Immigration Law will make it a crime to follow God’s command to be Good Samaritans. Luke 10:25-37… If enforced, the Law will place Alabama church members in the untenable position of verifying individuals’ immigration documentation before being able to follow God’s Word to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” Matthew 22:39. Alabama’s Anti-Immigration Law may brand Christians as criminals.

And a recent news story in the Decatur (AL) Daily sheds some light on this possibility, claiming that a church organization discriminated against people in need based on immigration status. The story claimed that “the Committee on Church Cooperation [CCC] is happy to offer assistance to Morgan County’s neediest residents, as long as they are not undocumented immigrants.” The organization has since clarified and ostensibly does not use immigration status as a litmus test for being served.

The uproar from religious leaders and Alabamanians was gratifying to see, as was CCC’s statement that they intend to serve people based on need, not immigration status or ethnicity. But with the climate of fear and suspicion the Alabama anti-immigrant law has created, (some undocumented immigrants in Alabama have even been pulling their children out of school for fear of getting caught without papers) it’ll take courage and conscientious effort for CCC and other faith-based providers to ensure that they are seen as safe spaces for vulnerable immigrants.

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