FOUR bishops in the United States have published a book,
Bishops on the Border, that calls for immigration reform,
and urges Christians in the US to approach the issue with
Bishop Minerva Carcaño, of the United Methodist Church; Bishop
Stephen Talmage, of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; the
Roman Catholic Bishop of Tucson, the Rt Revd Gerald Kicanas; and
the Episcopal Bishop of Arizona, the Rt Revd Kirk Smith, all
minister in Arizona - a state where large numbers of Mexicans have
illegally crossed the border in recent years.
The bishops explain their experiences of the debate over
immigration, and suggest what Christians in the US should do in
response to the issue. All four agree that the current system is
failing, and urge the US Congress to pass comprehensive immigration
reform, including a path to citizenship for people who entered the
US illegally in the past.
Bishop Kicanas says: "As a moral matter, we cannot continue to
exploit and dehumanise these, our brothers and sisters, who simply
want to survive. As Catholics, we read the scriptures as noting
God's deep care and concern for the stranger, the sojourner, the
Bishop Smith agrees, saying: "The concept of the brotherhood of
man is not just some politically correct slogan, it is a mandate
that we must care for each other as fellow daughters and sons of
the same Creator."
Arizona has been at the fore-front of the debate about illegal
immigration from Mexico in recent years. The state passed a strict
anti-immigration law in 2010, under which police officers were
allowed to demand proof of immigration status of those who had been
pulled over, detained, or arrested.
The authors recognise the strong hostility in Arizona towards
immigrants, but say that this attitude, and the 2010 law, are
Bishop Carcano, who was the first Hispanic woman elected to the
United Methodist episcopate, describes the passing of the
anti-immigration law as a "day of shame" for Arizona. "Many [young
people] feared that their immigrant parents would be deported, and
that their families would be separated and trampled by a rampant
hatred that was out of control in Arizona.
"I believe that at the root of this cruel attitude towards
immigrant children and young people we will find racism and
nativism. [We are called] to be faithful . . . to the One who calls
us to welcome and love the immigrant."
Bishop Talmage notes that, within a generation, Latinos will be
a majority in Arizona, and writes: "If the Lutheran Church wants to
have a future in this area of the country, then those in the
congregations of this synod have to work to cross the barriers that
our fear, ignorance, and sense of entitlement erect."
Approximately 8000 people have died trying to cross the now
600-mile wall along the US-Mexico border, Bishop Smith says. Bishop
Kicanas says that women and children who survived the journey into
Arizona speak of being robbed, beaten, and raped. He calls for
action to "secure the border from criminal behaviour, end the
violence and destruction of property along migrant routes, and
address the human-, drug-, and weapons-trafficking that are
All the bishops say that their stance on immigration has led to
abuse. But they insist that Jesus teaches them to treat immigrants
with compassion, not harshness. "It is a religious campaign,"
Bishop Smith says. "The politicians who build those walls might
call themselves Christians . . . but they didn't read their Bible -
they forgot that God hates walls!"