BOB ABERNETHY: Our cover story today comes from the U.S.-Mexico border and reports the growing conflict there between enforcing the law and helping illegal immigrants in need. Despite walls and patrols, undocumented immigrants continue to pour into the U.S., sometimes under life-threatening conditions. Should churches help the needy, even if they're here illegally? Reuben Martinez reports from Douglas, Arizona.
REUBEN MARTINEZ: An epic battle is taking place at the U.S.-Mexico border these days, pitting desperate immigrants against a nation's right to defend its borders.
People of faith in the region are grappling with the moral implications of illegal immigration. One of several religious leaders providing support to immigrants is Father Bob Carney.
Reverend BOB CARNEY: If you have two coats and someone asks you for one because they're cold, give them your coat. Give them half of what you have out of your abundance. It's the gospel.
MARTINEZ: But such beliefs can clash with official policy.
Unidentified Man #1: The border patrol's mission is to patrol the border, to prevent the illegal entry of foreign nationals into this country and the rest of those who are violating immigration laws.
MARTINEZ: The Immigration and Naturalization Service, INS, has built new walls at the places where immigrants are most likely to enter illegally. Critics contend the smugglers and their human cargo have moved to more isolated and dangerous locations.
The University of Houston estimated that over the last decade, some 3,000 people have died trying to get into the United States, mostly from drowning and exposure to the elements.
I'm just outside of Douglas, Arizona, where the border's practically open, as it is along most of the 2,000-mile-long line. Despite the walls that have gone up in places like Nogales, El Paso, and San Diego, the flow of migration is still constant, and it's placed communities like Douglas in a moral crucible.
Unidentified Man #2: There are going to be workers migrating back and forth across this border no matter what. The church is there to protect the right of workers to get work and support their families.
Unidentified Man #3: There's so many illegals coming up these days and going in and around the cities, you watch our crime rate. They come up here; they could care less about our laws, I believe.
Unidentified Man #4: There is an active bias and brutality to the extreme that I think is being noticed more and more. And when we go to the extreme of anything, to one side or the other, we are never going to come to a common ground.
MARTINEZ: The numbers of migrants are staggering. After the wall went up in Nogales, they headed east toward the city of Douglas, population 15,000. In the last 12 months, the border patrol apprehended some 220,000 illegals here and estimates that, for every one caught, one or two more slip through.
Unidentified Man #5: One way of putting it into perspective would be to say that on a monthly basis, the U.S. Border Patrol was arresting more undocumented crossers from foreign countries into the Douglas area than the population of Douglas, Arizona.
MARTINEZ: St. Luke's Catholic Church in Douglas is barely a mile off the border. Pastor Bob Carney likens this modern migration to Scripture.
Rev. CARNEY: If we see the world through the eyes of fear, we're not seeing the story completely. We're not going to hear this -- the sacred stories, the holy stories that -- of people who are starting, people who are in fear for their lives.
MARTINEZ: But some property owners in Douglas think Father Carney's compassion is only making matters worse.
Mr. LARRY VANCE (Concerned Citizens of Cochise County): He doesn't understand the implications of bringing literally millions of people into this country that are not citizens.
MARTINEZ: Larry Vance heads up a group called Concerned Citizens of Cochise County. His property has literally been overrun by migrants. Vance and his neighbors have taken to what some would call extreme measures like armed citizen patrols. Vance has even built an observation tower on his property to spot migrants.