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And they will know us by our love…
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The controversy of SB 1070 continues to rage like a range fire out of control. All across the country, the condemnation and rage that Arizona Governor Jan Brewer would sign this racist and hate bill continues to grow.


Father Donald Bahlinger, a Jesuit Priest involved in the Kino Border Initiative in southern Arizona understands first-hand the implications the lack of comprehensive immigration reform can have on people. The ministry is located in the twin cities of Nogales in northern Sonora and Nogales in southern Arizona.


The Kino Border Initiative is an immigrant humanitarian effort sponsored by people of faith and helps to “provide immediate and pastoral accompaniment to immigrants” recently deported from the USA back to México. They also provide housing and shelter to unaccompanied women and children who are targets for human trafficking and extremely vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.


Father Bahlinger understands the complexities and the consequences of a failed immigration system that is broken and focuses on separating and destroying families. Unabridged immigration enforcement by the Obama Administration has forced immigrants and families who find themselves stranded far from home and relatives and with few options for finding shelter, food, or a place safe from exploitation and fear.


The model of the Kino Border Initiative provides a proven faith based strategy and ministry in providing pastoral care to undocumented immigrants needing a temporary place of shelter, food, and place of sanctuary for their families.


With the signing of SB 1070, undocumented families face the real prospect of being stopped and questioned by law enforcement agents about their immigration status. “Reasonable suspicion” is the lowest standard used by police to stop and question suspected criminals. 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 Bahlinger says SB 1070 will become law within 90 days after Governor Brewer signed it. He believes in the days ahead, more families without proper documentation are going 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 has not yet reached the intensity and degree of hate, panic, and fear as it has in Arizona.


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 for temporary shelter and assistance for men, women, and families will not only allow people of faith to practice their faith values and beliefs, it will challenge the Church to exemplify the teachings of Christ toward the stranger in our land and move aggressive to meet those needs.


The Colorado Immigration Rights Coalition was right on target in calling together people of faith from across our state to begin to create a pastoral ministry framework that must meet the temporary needs of families fleeing the animosity and trepidation they feel in Arizona, and who at no fault of their won, find themselves stranded far from home or relatives.


I believe we can look to the Kino Border Initiative and the leadership of faith leaders like Father Bahlinger to guide our efforts in reaching undocumented immigrants affected by unnecessary and unconstitutional laws that violate the civil rights of a group of people based on a racial or ethnic profile.


We must remember that as people of conviction, it is our faith-based tenets and responsibility to look after the people affected by the hate-filled laws which have created undesirable consequences of destroying families and homes of so many undocumented immigrants.


It is incumbent that we now come together as a community of faith and be responsible for the pastoral care and ministry to families who may find themselves in need of our love and care inspired by our faith.


While we come together to provide shelter, food, 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 keep as the paramount concern, we are dealing with the lives of men, women and children and not just the systemic change of laws that in the past have created discrimination, fear, panic, and hopelessness.


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 all people of faith committed to providing pastoral care to immigrant families move to act justly, learn to love mercy, and to humbly walk with our God as we show our love and yearning for justice and righteousness for immigrant families seeking peace and sanctuary.


May we move forward together in ensuring that any immigrant family in need may call upon us for encouragement and that they will know us by our love and sensitivity for them.


Fidel “Butch” Montoya serves as Director of H.S. Power and Light Ministries.



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