Friday, September 16, 2011

Religious Groups Join New Mexico Immigration Debate

(WNS)--New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, fulfilling a 2010 campaign promise, is pressuring the state legislature to end a policy of granting driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. Martinez and other critics of the law contend it jeopardizes public safety and attracts illegal immigrants who fraudulently claim to live in the state only to get identification cards.

Churches and religious groups are speaking out in opposition to the governor, saying their actions are part of a larger and growing advocacy effort aimed at promoting immigration reform on moral grounds.

Organizations like the New Mexico Catholic Conference of Bishops and Albuquerque Interfaith were among those in Santa Fe to protest efforts to rescind the state law. They argue that the measure helps one of the state’s most vulnerable groups of people.

“We draw our inspiration from Scripture,” said Nancy Phillips, a member of the New Mexico Faith Coalition for Immigrant Justice, an Albuquerque-based group of lay people and clergy from different denominations.

Allen Sanchez, executive director of the New Mexico Catholic Conference of Bishops, said the bishops usually shy away from political activity: “But on this issue, they feel they have no choice.”

In a guest column for the Albuquerque Journal, the archbishop of Santa Fe, Michael J. Sheeham, writing on behalf of Roman Catholic Bishops of New Mexico, pointed out that “licenses for all drivers make our highways safer.” He also noted that immigrant workers “without legal access to driver’s licenses would not be able to travel to their places of employment, undermining the economic stability of their families, as well as the many New Mexico businesses, farms, and ranches that depend on their labor.”

Kip Bobroff, lead organizer for Albuquerque Interfaith, said ministers from that group held “preach-and-teach” events at churches and synagogues last week aimed at educating members on immigration issues. According to Bobroff, approximately 12,000 people heard about immigration in sermons, homilies, and Sunday school classes.

“Immigrants are part of our institutions, our communities, and our congregations,” Bobroff said. “All you have to do is read the New Testament and the Hebrew Scripture to know we have to welcome our neighbor.”

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