Catholic bishops of Arizona and New Mexico have told state lawmakers that proposed legislation cracking down on illegal immigrants may intimidate them into not reporting criminal activity when they are victims and cause a sharp rise in crime rates.
The legislation in question is Senate Bill 1070 and House Bill 2632, which are identical and would require local police to be tougher in immigration law enforcement. The bishops stated that "Anything that may deter crimes from being reported or prosecuted will only keep dangerous criminals on the streets, making our communities less safe, "especially since the present language of these bills does not clearly state that undocumented persons who become victims of crime can come forward without fear of deportation."
The bishops express their concern that since the legislation does not limit enforcement to persons suspected of criminal activity, it would open the door to even criminalizing the presence of children and young people brought into the United States by their parents. "If enacted, these bills could lead to separation of family members that would not take place under current federal law," the bishops said. Furthermore, said the statement "We believe it would be far better to withdraw these bills than to risk costly and unfairly punitive enforcement."
The bishops closed their statement saying, "We are grateful for the public service that all of our elected officials give to better our state, and we pray that their decisions are guided by wisdom and a concern for the most vulnerable among us." The bishops of Arizona are Thomas J. Olmsted, Bishop of Phoenix and Gerald F. Kicanas, Bishop of Tucson; James S. Wall, is Bishop of Gallup, New Mexico.