In Anti-Immigrant Alabama, Church Leaders Call New Law Un-Christian

Aug 14, 2011
9:44 pm

Earlier today, I posted the following on my Twitter page:

In this world, we are all humans and part of the same species. No one is legal or illegal. More compassion, less hate.

I wrote this because I was a bit offended by a post I saw on a Facebook page today that had criticized immigrant families and their desire to have children in this country. (BTW, I could have shown you that post on the page, but I and the Rebels have been blocked from that page as well. Sure, America is a free country, but not Facebook.)

Nonetheless, my little Twitter post and the subsequent RTs and shares does connect with many of our readers, and it is clear to me that comprehensive immigration reform is a actually a theme that has bipartisan support (see Marco Rubio and others), but the current Republican movement to put the blame on immigrants in this country has gotten the headlines.

It appears that the tide MIGHT be turning, or at least, the people who believe in a more compassionate and fair immigration policy are starting to speak up more.

Case in point: Alabama, which right now has perhaps the toughest immigration bill in the land. The law, passed in June and signed by Governor Robert Bentley, is crafted as follows:

Relating to illegal immigration; to define terms; to require the Attorney General to attempt to negotiate a Memorandum of Agreement under certain conditions; to require a person to present proof of citizenship and residency before voting; to preclude any state or local government or official from refusing to assist the federal government in the enforcement of federal immigration laws; to prohibit an alien unlawfully present in the United States from receiving any state or local public benefits; to prohibit a person not lawfully present from being eligible on the basis of residence for education benefits; to require business entities or employers seeking economic incentives to verify the employment eligibility of their employees and to provide penalties; to require an illegal alien to possess certain documents already required by federal law and to provide penalties; to prohibit an unauthorized alien from seeking employment in this state and to provide penalties; to require the verification of the legal status of persons by law enforcement officers under certain circumstances; to criminalize certain behavior relating to concealing, harboring, shielding, or attempting to conceal, harbor, or shield unauthorized aliens and to provide penalties; to create the crime of dealing in false identification documents and the crime of vital records identity fraud and to provide penalties; to prohibit a business entity, employer, or public employer from knowingly employing an unauthorized alien and to provide penalties; to prohibit certain deductible business expenses; to make it a discriminatory practice for a business entity or employer to fail to hire a legally present job applicant or discharge an employee while retaining an employee who is an unauthorized alien under certain conditions; to require the verification of legal status of every alien charged with a crime for which bail is required; to amend Section 32-6-9 of the Code of Alabama 1975, relating to driver’s licenses; to require law enforcement to detain any alien whose lawful immigration status cannot be verified under certain conditions; to require notification of the United States Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Alabama Department of Homeland Security when an unlawfully present alien is convicted of state law; to provide for a stay of the provisions of this act when an alien unlawfully present is a victim or critical witness of a crime under certain conditions; to authorize the Alabama Department of Homeland Security to hire state police officers and give the department enforcement power under certain conditions; to provide penalties for solicitation, attempt, or conspiracy to violate this act; to require the Alabama Department of Homeland Security to file a quarterly report with the Legislature under certain conditions; to require the Alabama Department of Homeland Security to establish and maintain an E-Verify employer agent service under certain conditions; to prohibit the enforcement of certain contracts under certain conditions; to require public schools to determine the citizenship and immigration status of students enrolling; to require school districts to compile certain data and submit reports to the State Board of Education; to require the State Board of Education to submit an annual report to the Legislature; to further provide for eligibility and requirements for voter registration; to establish a state election board; to provide duties of the board; to provide that a person may obtain a certified copy of a birth certificate from the Department of Public Health free of charge under certain conditions; to prohibit an alien not lawfully present from entering into a business transaction under certain conditions and provide penalties; to prohibit a landlord from knowingly entering into a rental agreement to harbor an illegal alien and provide penalties; and in connection therewith would have as its purpose or effect the requirement of a new or increased expenditure of local funds within the meaning of Amendment 621 of the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, now appearing as Section 111.05 of the Official Recompilation of the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, as amended.

Opposition and support of the bill has been active to say the least, but Alabama is also facing a very organized and public critcism from some of the state's top church leaders. As reported today in The New York Times (unlike my more extreme friends, as a journalist, I like to call it the "paper of record), three bishops sued Alabama (along with the US Justice Department) for imposing a law that they believe goes against the very Christian principles they preach about every Sunday. Here are some excerpts from the Times piece:

“The law,” said Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi of Mobile, “attacks our core understanding of what it means to be a church.” 

Andy Heis, the pastor of the new, nondenominational Desperation Church in Cullman, said,"It puts you in a really, really hard place." "I understand legally where they're coming from" he said, pointing out that obeying government laws was a biblical command. "But spiritually, I have to do what God calls me to do."

Nonetheless, even though two Methodist ministers wrote a letter to the law's supporters, which was signed by 150 other ministers, calling out the law's immoral nature, not every minister in Alabama is supporting this. One retired minister, Mac Buttram, a Republican legislator who voted for the law, told the Times the following:

“It’s a Christian issue, it’s a moral issue, but it’s not an issue in which we should be casting judgment,” he said, adding that several Methodist ministers had since called him expressing their support for the law.

The Alabama scenario comes at a time when there are hints of a softening of mainly Republican opposition to hard-line immigration laws. This weekend, Fox News (yes, Fox News) posted a blog about America's favorite anti-immigrant legislator, Russell Pearce of Arizona, that begins to suggest that the opponents of Pearce who are campaigning against him during his upcoming recall election favore tighter border security and immigration reform. We will see, since it is fair to say that anyone who comments on this that supports Arizona's and Alabama's laws are bound to call me a lover of "amnesty for criminals" and that I should probably "go back to Mexico." At least, I will say that it is refreshing to see non-Latinos in this country beginning to question these types of laws and whether they are truly moral.