Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Be a Good Samaritan, Go Directly to Jail

From H:

Dear Christian Churches of America,
The next time you give food, clothing, or any other type of assistance to an undocumented immigrant here in the Land of the Free, you will be guilty of aiding a felon and may be sentenced to five years in prison. To keep your respective church out of trouble, you'll need to institute document checks on every person you assist. So before you hand a brown-bag lunch to that person on Skid Row, make sure you see a valid license, Social Security card, and either a U.S. birth certificate or current green card.
Uncle Sam

Sounds ludicrous? Unfortunately, that's what we're looking at if the Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005, being considered by the Senate this week, is passed. It was already approved by the House of Representatives (H.R. 4437). Essentially, undocumented immigrants would be guilty of a felony under the bill, and anyone interacting with them in any way--other than turning them over to law enforcement--would be guilty of aiding a felon.

This puts non-profit agencies that administer aid, including churches, into a difficult position. It asks church workers--both clergy and us lay folk--to either act as police or turn away those who don't have "proper identification." (How many homeless people do you know that carry a Social Security card?) Or we can face prosecution.

To ponder:
1) In light of the constant debates about separation of church and state, do you think this crosses the line of government interference with the activities of religious organizations?

2) Do you think it's wrong to break the law in order to help someone who is hungry or hurt?

3) Consider Christ's directive in the parable of the Good Samaritan. Do you think it's applicable in this situation? If so, how does it apply? If not, why doesn't it apply?

Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony Vows to Defy Anti-Immigrant Bill

Catholic Leaders Work to Sway Immigration

H.R. 4437 Could Result in Jail Time for Many Church Workers

Full text of bill available at:

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