By Fidel “Butch” Montoya
All across the country, the controversy and condemnation over SB 1070 continues to grow since Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed one of the most misguided state attempts at legislating immigration reform.
With the signing of SB 1070, undocumented families now face the real prospect of being stopped and questioned by the police over their immigration status. “Reasonable suspicion” will be the standard used by police to stop and question suspects. Now based on the visual ethnic and racial profiling standards, looking like an undocumented immigrant will be sufficient reason to be stopped, questioned, convicted, and deported.
Father Donald Bahlinger, of the Arizona pastoral care ministry, Kino Border Initiative, believes SB 1070 in the days ahead, will force more families without proper documentation to make the decision to flee the climate of hate and fear becoming so prevalent in Arizona. Families will begin looking to other states where immigration enforcement may not yet have reached the intensity and degree of hate, panic, and fear as it has in Arizona.
The Kino Border Initiative is an immigrant humanitarian effort sponsored by people of faith and “provides immediate and pastoral accompaniment to immigrants” recently deported from the USA back to Mexico. They also provide housing and shelter for unaccompanied women and children who are targets for human trafficking and extremely vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.
In speaking with Father Bahlinger, it is clear he understands the complexities and the consequences of a failed immigration system that is broken and focuses on separating and destroying families.
The heavy-handed enforcement of immigration laws by the Obama Administration has forced immigrants and families stranded far from home and relatives with few options for finding shelter, food, or a place safe from exploitation and fear.
The Kino Border Initiative provides a proven faith based strategy and ministry in providing pastoral care to undocumented immigrants in need of a temporary place of shelter, food, or place of sanctuary for their families.
If the prophetic voice of Father Bahlinger becomes a reality, people of faith across our country will need to draw upon their faith and humanitarian values to reach out to provide pastoral care and ministry to families seeking places of sanctuary and safety.
The need to meet the temporary assistance for families will not only allow people of faith to practice the values and beliefs of their faith, it will also challenge the Church to exemplify the teachings of Christ toward helping the stranger in our land.
The Colorado Immigration Rights Coalition was right on target in convening a meeting for people of faith from across our state to begin to consider a pastoral ministry framework prepared to meet the temporary needs of families fleeing the animosity and trepidation felt in Arizona.
I believe we must look to the leadership of faith leaders like Father Bahlinger to guide our efforts in assisting undocumented immigrants affected by SB 1070 and which clearly violates the civil rights of a group of people based solely on a racial or ethnic profile.
We must remember that as people of conviction and faith, we must provide pastoral accompaniment for the victims affected by this hate-inspired law which has created so many undesirable consequences in destroying families and homes of so many undocumented immigrants.
It is incumbent that we now come together as a community of faith and inspired by our faith, be prepared for the pastoral care and ministry to families who may find themselves in need of our love and care.
While we come together to provide shelter, pastoral care and sanctuary for immigrant families, we also call upon President Obama and the Congress to remember as they debate comprehensive immigration reform, that any proposed legislation or framework must keep as the paramount theme, we are dealing with the lives of men, women and children and not just the systemic change of laws that in the past has misled us into believing that discrimination, fear, panic, and hopelessness were eliminated.
As people of faith, we will follow the precepts of our faith and the biblical principles that require that we follow the teachings of love, care, and justice.
“He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
Micah 6: 8.
May we have the fortitude to move forward together in ensuring that any immigrant family in need may call upon us and learn to know us by our love for them.
Fidel "Butch" Montoya is Director of H.S. Power and Light Ministries. He was the Vice President/News Director of KUSA - TV Channel 9 News from 1985-1990, and worked at the news station for 24 years. Montoya also served as Deputy Mayor of City and County of Denver from 1995-1999; as the Manager of Public Safety for the City and County of Denver from 1994-2000. Montoya was Licensed to preach in 1972. He serves on the Executive Council for the Hispanic Coalition for Comprehensive Immigration Reform.