Saturday, March 31, 2012

Arizona immigration law threatens religious liberty, USCCB argues in court brief

As previously announced by Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Archbishop José Gomez, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has filed an amicus curiae brief in support of the federal government in its dispute with Arizona over the state’s 2010 immigration legislation. 

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, and the Presbyterian Church (USA) joined the US bishops in filing the brief in the case of United States v. Arizona.

“The [USCCB] is compelled to file this brief in support of the United States for two reasons,” the brief states. “First, the Conference has a strong interest in ensuring that courts adhere to two important goals of federal immigration law--the promotion of family unity and the protection of human dignity. The provisions of S.B. 1070 [the Arizona immigration law] at issue in this case would hinder these critical federal objectives by replacing them with the single goal of reducing the number of undocumented immigrants in Arizona at all costs. That is flatly inconsistent with this country’s longstanding holistic approach to immigration policy--which underscores why these decisions are properly made at the federal, rather than the state, level.” 

“Second, and more generally, the Conference is acutely interested in protecting the religious liberty of Catholic and other religious institutions,” the brief continued, adding:
The Catholic Church’s religious faith, like that of many religious denominations including those who join the Conference in this brief, requires it to offer charity--ranging from soup kitchens to homeless shelters—to all in need, whether they are present in this country legally or not. 
Yet S.B. 1070 and related state immigration laws have provisions that could either criminalize this charity, criminalize those who provide or even permit it, or require the institutions that provide it to engage in costly (if not impossible) monitoring of the individuals they serve, and then to exclude from that charity all those whose presence Arizona and other states would criminalize. 
This in itself, as well as the proliferation of fifty different laws of this kind, would unnecessarily intrude on the Church’s religious liberty.