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Arizona Immigration Law Gets SD Churches' Attention

May 14, 2010

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - Police in Arizona now have the authority to stop anyone they suspect of being in this country illegally, arrest them, and hold them for deportation, if the individual is in fact in the country illegally. That effort is generating negative reactions from members of religious groups, including Gene Miller, executive director of the Association of Christian Churches of South Dakota.

"In the Bible, we talk about hospitality and being hospitable; we have a precedent in the church of being a charitable organization. In fact, historically we are the first group to ever provide charity. And there are some times that we have laws that make us, as a people, look less than charitable."

Miller says they are concerned because there are more states and cities talking about enacting similar restrictive laws. He says the church could play a vital role in overcoming the ethnic divide.

"We want to be understanding of both sides of the issue and see if there can't be compromises and mutual understandings that can be worked out together, rather than to somehow devolve into us-vs-them kind of mentality."

Their national group of state ecumenical executives is reconsidering the plan to hold their annual convention in Arizona, he adds.

The law would require the police “when practicable” to detain people they reasonably suspected were in the country without authorization. It would also allow the police to charge immigrants with a state crime for not carrying immigration documents. Supporters of the law argue Arizonans have been victimized by undocumented immigrants and the federal government has failed to enforce the law.


Jerry Oster, Public News Service - SD