LOS ANGELES — The head of the nation's largest Roman Catholic archdiocese has condemned a proposed Arizona crackdown on illegal immigrants, saying it encourages people to turn on each other in Nazi- and Soviet-style repression.
The measure wrongly assumes that Arizonans "will now shift their total attention to guessing which Latino-looking or foreign-looking person may or may not have proper documents," Cardinal Roger Mahony said in his blog Sunday – a day before Arizona's Legislature sent the immigration enforcement measure to the Republican governor.
Gov. Jan Brewer has not indicated whether she will sign the bill, which creates a new state misdemeanor of willful failure to complete or carry an alien registration document. It would also require officers to determine people's immigration status if there's reason to suspect they're in the country illegally.
Arizona has an estimated 460,000 illegal immigrants. Proponents of the bill say it was prompted by concerns over the cost of providing services to illegal immigrants and by the slaying of an Arizona rancher near the Mexican border this month. Authorities believe he was fatally shot by an illegal immigrant possibly connected to a drug smuggling cartel.
Republican Arizona Sen. Russell Pearce, who sponsored the bill, has said it will take handcuffs off police and put them on violent criminals.
But Mahony, whose archdiocese has a huge Hispanic immigrant population, said the Arizona Legislature was passing "the country's most retrogressive, mean-spirited, and useless anti-immigrant law."
Similar laws that were previously passed in other states have been repealed or struck down in the courts, he said.
"The tragedy of the law is its totally flawed reasoning: that immigrants come to our country to rob, plunder, and consume public resources," Mahony said.
"I can't imagine Arizonans now reverting to German Nazi and Russian Communist techniques whereby people are required to turn one another in to the authorities on any suspicion of documentation," the cardinal said. "Are children supposed to call 911 because one parent does not have proper papers? Are family members and neighbors now supposed to spy on one another, create total distrust across neighborhoods and communities, and report people because of suspicions based upon appearance?"
Provisions of the proposed law make it illegal for people to knowingly transport illegal immigrants or hire them for day labor, but it does not require regular citizens to report immigration violations.
A separate Arizona law already punishes companies caught knowingly hiring illegal immigrants.