Church leaders rip Ariz. immigration bill

April 20, 2010 at 7:50 AM
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PHOENIX, April 20 (UPI) -- A Catholic cardinal ripped immigration legislation passed in Arizona, calling the bill "mean-spirited" and saying it would compel people to rat on each other.

The Arizona legislation, which hasn't been signed by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, would make it a crime to be in the state illegally and would require law enforcement officers to check the legal status of people they suspect are undocumented, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday. To address the day-labor trade, a provision would bar people from soliciting work or hiring workers under certain circumstances.

"The Arizona legislature just passed the country's most retrogressive, mean-spirited and useless anti-immigrant law," Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony wrote on his blog. "The tragedy of the law is its totally flawed reasoning: that immigrants come to our country to rob, plunder, and consume public resources. That is not only false, the premise is nonsense."

Mahony, an influential religious voice nationwide and leader of the country's largest Roman Catholic archdiocese, compared the legislation to "German Nazi and Russian Communist techniques" that compelled people to turn each other in. The Los Angeles archdiocese is nearly 70 percent Latino.

Religious leaders in Arizona also criticized the legislation, calling on Brewer to veto the bill. In a letter, the leaders also said the measure could drain the economy by driving down business, reducing public safety by diverting police resources and dissuading illegal immigrants from reporting crime.

Mahony's blog remarks drew criticism, particularly his Nazi and communist references.

"I think it's frankly bizarre and the cardinal should apologize for dredging up that old imagery," said Joe Hicks, a commentator for the conservative online news network

Arizona lawmakers "did what they thought was right and proper" to address a critical problem, Hicks said.

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