Some of Alabama's church leaders are asking the governor to repeal the state's immigration law. In a letter to the governor, they wrote that short of repeal, they pray that the governor will work toward revisions in what they say is an unjust and unfair law.
The governor's office says that a repeal is out of the question.
The law, characterized as the toughest immigration law in the country, has been enforced in the state for the last three months. Church leaders had initially filed suit against it, saying actions such as taking an illegal immigrant to the hospital or a job would have been considered to be a criminal violation of the law. The rector of St. Johns Episcopal Church in Mobile says that while the clergy is relieved that they can now continue their ministries without the fear of being arrested, the law is still not acceptable. The attorney general has admitted that the law has some problems.
The church leaders' letter says that the law could be used to treat people poorly and that "Alabama does not need to return to a time when the laws were used to vent hate for others." The governor has said that the law needs tweaking, but it will not be repealed.
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In an October press release, Rev. Jim Wallis and Sojourners explained why they opposed the law from a Christian point of view:
In June, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley signed into law legislation that harshly discriminates against immigrants. While the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta issued an injunction on October 14th, some of the most egregious provisions of the bill include: requiring schools to check the immigration status of students and parents, and report those they suspect of being undocumented; mandating that police officers ask anyone they believe could be undocumented to prove their immigration status; and making it unlawful for anyone to engage in contracts – including child support, loans, and rental agreements – with an undocumented person, plus making current contracts null and void.
"The Alabama law is not only mean-spirited, unjust, and racist, but it is also morally indefensible,” Rev. Wallis, president and CEO of Sojourners, said. "Enforcement without compassion is cruel and ineffective. The results of this immoral law will be families torn apart and an immigrant community being forced further into the shadows and marginalized. As Christians, we refuse to comply with laws that attempt to keep us from showing love for our neighbors and the marginalized.”
Immigrant advocates have already reported that thousands of children who are undocumented or who have undocumented family members have stopped attending school for fear of deportation. Crimes are going unreported in communities with undocumented immigrants as victims and witnesses fear deportation or arrest, and the immigrant community is surrounded by "deputized” ICE agents, including neighbors, banks, utilities, school teachers, and even churches.
"Christians ultimately follow a higher moral law than what a state legislature might pass. We are commanded by God to welcome the 'stranger' and help those in need,” says Lisa Sharon Harper, Sojourners Director of Mobilizing and co-author of the new book, Left, Right & Christ. "If someone is in need it is the responsibility of Christians to help, whether or not the person in need can prove their immigration status. Christians can and should break this unjust law and call our political leaders to find a lasting solution to our broken immigration system.”