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Mailbag: Religious leaders concerned about ICE

July 22, 2010

We are writing to you as local ministers and Laguna Beach residents. We are writing to you because we are concerned about the way immigrants are treated and spoken about in America today. Yes, this is an issue of federal law, which Washington will one day deal with. But it is also an issue on the streets of downtown Laguna Beach. Here in our town, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers have detained several people suspected of being illegal immigrants.

We are concerned about families and those most vulnerable in our community. When immigrants are detained or deported, they are often separated from family members who depend on them for basic needs. Detention and deportation shatters families who have made America their home.

We are concerned about the safety of our community. In Arizona, and now, much of Orange County, laws are being written that require police officers to enforce federal immigration laws. To some that might sound like a move toward more security; however, those laws actually increase crime. Those laws make the entire immigrant community suspicious of the police. Without a relationship with the community they serve, the police find it nearly impossible to collect information necessary to prevent crime. Also, the additional burden of enforcing federal immigration law distracts from the work of providing for basic public safety. Since the passage of Arizona Senate Bill 1070, crime has increased significantly.

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We are concerned about families, we are concerned about the security of our community, and we are concerned about the type of world we build when exclusion is the order of the day. Immigration is not only a political issue, it is also a moral issue.

Both Hebrew and Christian scriptures admonish us to welcome the stranger. Hebrew scriptures, recalling the oppression the children of Israel suffered as foreigners, teach us to love the stranger, the outsider. The Book of Leviticus instructs, "You shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt."

Jesus and his followers went beyond welcoming the foreigner to the more radical practice of welcoming the marginalized: children, women, tax collectors, the poor, lepers, prostitutes, even enemies. In Jesus' vision of the Kingdom of God, there are no foreigners.

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