A new Alabama law is the most pervasive, dehumanizing immigration law in America, say local church leaders, who claim that the law violates their right to do Christian acts of kindness.
The bold law, which seeks to entirely cut off illegal immigrants from the rest of society, requires that a number of public workers, including police and teachers, actively try to find and identify illegal immigrants.
This is a decisive turn from previous and more common legislation that makes being an illegal immigrant and secondary offense, and does not encourage teachers to “out” students or police officers to stop anyone who appears to be an immigrant. In addition, the law nullifies any contract involving an illegal immigrant and discourages anyone from harboring or assisting someone without first ascertaining whether the person is in the country illegally.
In response, leaders from the Roman Catholic, Episcopal and Methodist churches in Alabama filed a suit in which the called the new legislation “merciless,” and argue that the law places “Alabama church members in the untenable position of verifying an individuals’ immigration documentation before being able to follow God’s Word to “love they neighbor as thyself.”
The suit goes on to argue that feeding and clothing the needy, regardless of nationality or immigration status is a Christian belief, and that by forbidding the people of Alabama from assisting illegal aliens, the state is violating their First Amendment right to peacefully practice their religion.
Alabama’s response is, essentially, that the concerns of the state come first. Citing a belief (no studies are listed in the response to the church leaders’ motion for injunction) that supporting illegal immigrants through public funds and institutions like schools is hurting the state economy. In fact, Alabama presents the law as an extension of a federal mandate to better handle immigration issues.
But this isn’t simply church versus state, but church and state versus state. The United States Department of Justice has also filed a suit against the State of Alabama and Governor Robert Bentley, stating essentially that Alabama’s immigration law goes against the “careful and considered balance of national law enforcement, foreign relations and human interests.”
Some of those interests are resourced based, in that the U.S. government is more interested in illegal immigrants that threaten lives, not (allegedly) livelihoods.
With so much pressure from influential local leaders and now suits from the DOJ and American Civil Liberties Union, this bill may not be long for this world.