Immigration is the responsibility of the federal government, and laws passed should treat the undocumented with dignity, respecting the disadvantaged, families and children, Oklahoma Catholic Church leaders said Monday.
A joint statement released by the Most Rev. Paul Coakley, archbishop of Oklahoma City, and the Most Rev. Edward Slattery, bishop of Tulsa, said immigration laws are necessary, but new laws should focus on the country’s dependence on undocumented workers, fair wages and working conditions and a path to legal status that “will bring these undocumented persons out of the shadows, where they are so easily preyed upon by human traffickers and unscrupulous profiteers.”
Citing biblical tenets, Coakley and Slattery state Catholic social teachings stress treating neighbors as “brothers,” particularly when it comes to those who are underprivileged.
Author defends bill
Sen. Ralph Shortey, primary author of the Senate Bill 908 and a freshman senator who campaigned on immigration enforcement issues, said he doesn’t disagree with most of the church’s statement.
“I’m a Christian person,” Shortey said. “The contention comes when we’re using state resources to further an illegal activity.”
Shortey said the legislation he proposed merely supports federal law. His bill would allow local and state law enforcement officers to arrest a person if there is reasonable suspicion to believe he or she is in the country illegally. It says officers can’t use race, color or nationality as the reason.
“We are concerned also that these immigration bills will have the intentional or unintentional effect of instilling fear in an already vulnerable population,” the bishops said.
Much of the language in Shortey’s bill mirrors Arizona’s immigration law.
A New York Times editorial published March 4 mentioned Oklahoma as one of several states “pushing Arizona-style copycat laws” and “crackdowns” as a result of the federal government’s inaction on the issue.