The Common Good

Immigration Enforcement Goes From Bad to Worse in Arizona

The following blog is a response to the passage of controversial immigration legislation in Arizona. Today, a large-scale Immigrations and Customs Enforcement raid was conducted on a business in downtown Phoenix, where the author lives and serves as a youth minister to the immigrant community.

On Tuesday, the Arizona House of Representatives passed the toughest immigration enforcement bill in the country, SB1070. Having already passed through the Senate, the Governor is expected to sign it into law shortly. Arizona already has the nation's strongest employer sanctions bill; and, of course, our Sheriff (Joe Arpaio) is well known for his political posturing towards immigrants. But this new bill is much worse.

Immigrants who are in Arizona without authorization will now be in violation of a new state law and may be forced to prove legal status at any moment. Police departments will be mandated to enforce all federal immigration laws despite depleting resources and the vast and extreme levels of law-abidance that define immigrant households! If police choose not to go after drywall guys, restaurant labor, and resort staff, tax dollars will be made available for lawsuits. Citizens are encouraged to sue police departments who fail to enforce federal immigration policy to the 'full extent of the law.'

Racial profiling, which is already an issue in our state, will become unavoidable. Law enforcement, at the risk of lawsuit, will have to choose to investigate brown people with accents instead of obvious, much larger threats to public safety. Incredibly, language from amendments offered by Southern segregationists to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, trying (unsuccessfully) to lessen its impact is included in SB1070.

People who knowingly transport or harbor immigrants are at risk as well. Knowing who is in your vehicle or house or church van or sanctuary and the status of their immigration documents could now have legal implications. Ministry activities, mine included, are sure to be interrupted.

I'm so angry and embarrassed and disappointed, I keep deleting sentences that are sure to offend. And I can't wait for somebody in the comments section below to say something crass regarding parts of legality that should be easily understood. Can't you understand that these friends of mine who were brought to the U.S. as infants are now honor students, in my youth group, love Jesus, and are volunteering at church? If you understood them and their situation, you couldn't support backwards, politically laced, non-solutions like SB1070.

I hope these angry voices are as committed as they say they are to deporting immigrant families and young people in my church and arresting me for picking them up to hear the Good News of Christ, because I'm not going anywhere! They are going to have to put their heartless, legalistic rhetoric into action or work toward a different approach. If you want to rip families apart and interrupt local church activities, you know where to find me.

I am afraid this is going to get worse before it gets better. The principle of pain, which says it has to get horrible before people wake up, is loathsome but very real today in Arizona.

But my hope is not in measures of political feasibility that consider the impact of midterm elections on immigration reform. My hope is not in politicians or natives who might experience an attack of conscience or backbone and begin to see families, especially immigrant ones, as precious and valuable. My real hope is not even in mobilizations that demonstrate to America the value and power in the Latino and immigrant community that must be legitimatized.

My deepest hope is in a God who is, right now, listening to the groans and cries of His people and who promises to rescue and save us. I pray for those who would stand against Him.

Ian Danley is a youth pastor with Neighborhood Ministries in Phoenix, Arizona.

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