On immigration, a step in the wrong direction from Alabama
Last week, the national immigration debate took a turn for the worse when Alabama Governor Robert Bentley signed into law the most draconian anti-immigrant piece of legislation in the country, even topping Arizona’s controversial SB-1070.
The law requires law enforcement officials to check for immigration status, criminalizes transporting or renting to an undocumented immigrant, mandates that all businesses use E-Verify to check immigration status of all workers, and more.
Even more discouraging is that Governor Bentley is a person of faith, a Southern Baptist deacon. His own denomination, considered one of the most conservative in the country, has vocally supports a humane and compassionate approach to the immigration debate and has argued for comprehensive immigration reform.
Bishop William H. Willimon of the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church recently penned an open letter to the Alabama political leaders who shepherded the anti-immigrant bill to passage. The letter, which has earned local, national, and religious press coverage, said, “As Christian ministers, we not only believe that this law is not in the state’s best interest, but we also believe it contradicts the essential tenets of the Christian faith.”
The signers of the letter take issue with not only the harsh approach to immigration enforcement, but also with the ways the law aims to penalize those who provide support and assistance to those in need regardless of their immigration status.
Conor Friedersdorf at The Atlantic makes a similar argument, pointing to the invasive legislation’s implications for people of faith and conscience in Alabama:
…Ponder this hypothetical. As a Birmingham church group prepares to depart on its annual bible retreat, should it exclude from the communal van the longtime parishioner who is known to her co-religionists to be in the country illegally? These are awful choices to force on people. When legislation results in law-abiding citizens having pangs of conscience, odds are the law is a bad one.
So long as extremist state legislators and governors push legislation that divides communities and targets immigrants, people of faith will keep calling for compassionate and pragmatic solutions. The Alabama law falls far short on both of these criteria.