BOB ABERNETHY, anchor: In Arizona, a tough new immigration law is prompting widespread protest from many in the religious community. It requires police in the state to check the status of anyone they suspect may be in the country illegally. To protest it many in the faith community have designated this weekend as a special time for prayer for immigrants. Among those condemning the law are the US Catholic bishops, who have long lobbied for comprehensive immigration reform.
We want to talk now with one bishop on the frontline of the battle. He is Gerald Kicanas, bishop of the Roman Catholic diocese of Tucson Arizona. Bishop, welcome. Several lawsuits were filed this week, more are promised, more are in the works, some of them from clergy. Where does the Church stand on this? Are you going to try to stop this bill, this law?
BISHOP GERALD KICANAS (Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson, Arizona): Even the Arizona legislators, Bob, are considering modifications to the bill, which suggests that they themselves are concerned about how it could be misinterpreted. So there will be legal action, certainly, and we’ll monitor that and participate where we feel it would be appropriate.
ABERNETHY: Do you think the church might become a party to the lawsuits to try to stop the bill?
BISHOP KICANAS: I don’t know that we’ll be bringing the lawsuits forward. Those will be brought forward by, certainly, others, but we will review those, and perhaps consider being a friend of the court where it would be appropriate.
ABERNETHY: Do you think in the end that the bill can be stopped, that the law can be stopped?
BISHOP KICANAS: Well, there is great national concern, certainly concern within our state among religious leaders, among many portions of our community. It has to be addressed that this bill does not well represent the state of Arizona and is not going to resolve the issues that we are facing.
ABERNETHY: Bishop, remind us again of what the church says, what Christian teachings say about the stranger.
BISHOP KICANAS: Every Christian tradition speaks of the importance of welcoming the stranger, that every human being is to be treated with dignity and respect, and so for us in the church that is a core message of our teaching—that all human life from conception till natural death is to be respected, and certainly the migrant is among those who are the littlest and weakest among us, and they need to be respected and treated with the dignity they deserve.
ABERNETHY: But as you know perhaps better than anyone, people feel so strongly about this. Many people in Arizona, they want to stop the illegal immigration, they want to get rid of some, of the people who are already there. They fear crime, they feel changes in culture. You’ve been getting a lot of calls, I’m sure. What do you say to people, many of them, I’m sure, your friends, who say, “We disagree with you on this”?
BISHOP KICANAS: Well, certainly, I first have to listen, to hear what they are feeling, their concerns, their worries, and then try to help them to see what the church is teaching, because a lot of times people haven’t really heard what is being said or haven’t read the law, and so it’s important to encourage them to learn about the situation, understand it better, and most important if they could come to meet the migrant I think some of their fears and concerns would be alleviated.
ABERNETHY: Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, Arizona, many thanks.