To those who follow immigration policy, the phrase S.B. 1070 is a weighty one. It refers to a bill passed through the Arizona State Legislature, a bill called Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act. This law requires state and local law enforcement to determine the immigration status of any individual they ‘reasonably suspect’ of being in the United States illegally. Across the nation, people concerned with immigration took note of this piece of legislation, in part because immigration law is generally passed on a federal level, but also due to concerns about the effects this kind of punitive law might have on communities.
In the time that has elapsed since the passage of S.B. 1070, the impact on local communities has become clear and the picture is dismal. The Rev. Stephen S. Talmage, Bishop of the Grand Canyon Synod of the ELCA describes the law’s effects: “S.B. 1070 has created a culture of fear within Arizona. Many community members are now reluctant to approach law enforcement for fear of facing questioning or being detained.”
Perhaps even more concerning is the emergence of legislation mimicking Arizona’s S.B. 1070 in state legislatures across the nation. On January 18th, an S.B. 1070 copycat law passed through the Mississippi Legislature. In response, voices of faith raised concerns about the consequences of enacting laws that target the most vulnerable. In an Op-Ed published by a local newspaper, a Mississippi voter said that from a Christian view point endorsing the bill is “unseemly if we consider that the bill will affect the least and the poorest in our midst and the innocent children of these folk whether native born or not.”
Similar legislation is also being debated in the South Carolina legislature, where immigration was a prominent topic during the state’s gubernatorial primaries. South Carolina’s S.B. 1070 copycat law is one of several punitive immigration laws proposed in the state’s legislature. Backed by the new governor, South Carolina’s law will possibly be the first of its kind to be enacted this year.
As an organization established on the biblical mandate to care for sojourners in our midst, LIRS is concerned with how S.B. 1070, and laws mimicking it, could hurt families and sow distrust in communities. While we recognize that our nation’s immigration system is broken and in need of reform, we question the utility and ethics of creating a patchwork of punitive state laws. We at LIRS urge Congress to pass a comprehensive reform to our nation’s immigration system, and you can join us by sending a letter to your member of Congress in the LIRS Action Center!