WASHINGTON (USCCB) —The U.S. bishops greeted with hope and caution the June 25 Supreme Court decision to strike down provisions of an Arizona immigration law that would have allowed warrantless arrests of people suspected of an offense that is deportable, that would have made it a crime to seek work in the state and that would have made undocumented presence a state crime.
The bishops found hope in the decision in Arizona vs. United States and said it reflects the bishops’ call for humane and just immigration laws and concern for laws that could tear families apart. Their caution lay in the lifting of an injunction against immigrants having to show papers in some circumstances.
The bishops had filed a friend of the court brief in the case.
Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Migration, expressed concern regarding the one part of the 5-3 decision that narrowly upheld a provision that permits state law enforcement personnel to determine the immigration status of any person stopped, detained, or arrested if there is a reasonable suspicion that the person is not lawfully in the United States, and to verify the immigration status of any person arrested before releasing that person.
In the opinion, the justices left the door open that the provision that was upheld — known as 2(B) of SB 1070 — could later be found unconstitutional.
"While we are concerned with the Court’s decision to lift the injunction on section 2(B) of the law, we are encouraged that the Court did not rule it constitutional," Archbishop Gomez said. "As we articulated in our amicus brief, the implementation of this provision could lead to the separation of families and undermine the Church’s ability to minister to the immigrant population."
A copy of the brief can be found at http://www.usccb.org/ogc/amicus-briefs/upload/state-of-arizona-v-united-states-of-america.pdf.
"We stand in solidarity with our brother bishops in Arizona, as they prepare to respond to the implementation of this provision and its potential human consequences," Archbishop Gomez said.
Opponents of the law have expressed concern that the decision would lead to the racial profiling of immigrants and the violation of civil rights laws.
Archbishop Gomez highlighted the Court’s other provisions.
"The Court’s decision to strike down the other provisions of the Arizona law reaffirms the strong role of the federal government in regulating immigration," said Archbishop Gomez.
Archbishop Gomez urged state governments not to rush to pass laws similar to SB 1070 and called upon Congress to assume its responsibility and enact comprehensive immigration reform. He vowed that the Catholic Church in the United States would continue to fight for humane and just reform of the nation’s immigration system.
"The U.S. Catholic bishops across the nation will urge their state governments to not pursue laws such as in Arizona, but rather to pursue humane reform on the federal level," Archbishop Gomez said. "Humane enforcement of our nation’s laws are part of any solution, but enforcement by itself, unjustly administered, only leads to abuses and family breakdown."
"The Church will continue to stand by immigrants and their families and seek justice on their behalf," stated Archbishop Gomez.