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Weekly Diaspora: Evangelicals unexpected allies for immigration reform

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With only a week remaining before Arizona’s contentious Senate Bill 1070 becomes law, Arizona human and immigrant rights groups have found unlikely allies among the religious community.

The American Prospect reports that a growing group of evangelical Christian leaders, like Rev. Samuel Rodriguez Jr., president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, are rejecting the traditional conservative stance on immigration, instead supporting President Barack Obama's call for comprehensive reform.

Southern Baptist and Catholic leaders are also among those who have come out in favor of a path to citizenship, according to New American Media. Following last week's blacklist scandal in Utah, the stance on immigration reform in the Mormon Church (Utah's dominant social institution) is under scrutiny. After the news broke of the blacklist of undocumented immigrants -- which contained Social Security numbers, phone numbers, even the due dates of pregnant women -- a firestorm of controversy erupted.

Many religious leaders chimed in, condemning the list and those who compiled it. However, Mormon clergy have come under fire for remaining neutral on the issue of immigration, despite the Church's high-profile public support for Prop 8, the gay marriage ban.

Voicing Dissent

Opponents of SB 1070 are pulling out all the stops and preparing for a  "statewide mobilization" in Arizona on July 29th. Activists are planning rallies, vigils and civil disobedience protests to be held across the state.

Jennifer Allen, director of the Border Action Network, is helping organize the statewide mobilization. She says that the immigrant rights community isn't in favor of illegal immigration, but rather a better path to citizenship and an alternative to the enforcement-only approach to dealing with immigration. Speaking to Public News Service, Allen explained her position:

I have yet to meet somebody who's undocumented that wouldn't prefer to be here with documents and prefer to be here legally. We need a system and a policy in which people can come out of the shadows, can come into this country in a safe and legal way.

DREAM on

Immigration protests aren't just happening in Arizona, as Campus Progress reports. Advocates of the DREAM Act, legislation that would create a pathway for young undocumented students to live in the United States legally, are taking their message all the way to Washington, D.C. As part of a week of action called "The DREAM is Coming," DREAM Activists conducted a sit-in at the Capitol building, during which twelve participants were arrested. All twelve, who were charged with disorderly conduct, are believed to be undocumented immigrants, and face possible deportation.

Arpaio's "Tent City"

Meanwhile, back in Arizona, law enforcement officials are preparing to begin enforcing SB 1070 next week. As Suzy Khimm reports for Mother Jones, Joe Arpaio, sheriff of Maricopa County, AZ, is ready, willing and able to enforce the new law in his signature tyrannical style, imprisoning immigrants in his infamous "Tent City." Arpaio has announced that "Tent City" can accommodate over 1,000 new prisoners in the oppressively hot desert. This alternative prison is just one of Arpaio's many extreme anti-immigrant policing strategies. Khimm writes:

"I put them up next to the dump, the dog pound, the waste-disposal plant," Arpaio once said of his tactics, which have also included chain gangs (for men and women), public parades in pink underwear (for men only), and massive illegal-immigration sweeps. Arpaio's tactics have earned him the nickname "Hitler" among Tent City inmate.

National Guard deployed to Arizona

With tensions along the border heating up as July 29 approaches, President Barack Obama has ordered 1,200 National Guard troops to be deployed to Arizona, Texas, New Mexico and California. The troops will begin one-year assignments at the border on August 1st. They will be charged with bolstering the military presence and patrolling the border, but won't directly enforce laws. Instead they'll aid in policing drug trafficking and migration, and reporting border-crossers to law enforcement.

According to ColorLines, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has called the deployment insufficient, complaining that it isn't "tied to a strategy to comprehensively defeat the increasingly violent drug- and alien-smuggling cartels that operate in Arizona on a daily basis." http://bit.ly/duG1bv Colorlines also reports that in addition to the 1,200 troops, President Obama will be sending $500 million for increased border patrol.

Victories for women

Recent news on immigration reform hasn't been all bad. As Ms. Magazine reports, women asylum seekers have won an important and somewhat surprising victory. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco has ruled that women fleeing femicide are eligible to apply for asylum. As Carrie Baker notes, the decision sets an important precedent.

[The] case builds on the idea that women's rights are human rights by asking the government to take gender-based harm as seriously as it takes harms based on political belief, race, nationality or religion. The Perdomo decision is revolutionary in its implicit recognition of a state's responsibility to remedy violence against women.

Finally, Areli E. Padilla of New American Media reports that 106-year-old Ignacia Moya, born in the Mexican city of Guadalajara, Jalisco, has become an American citizen after her second attempt. According to the report, "Wearing a blue, red and white blouse representing the American flag, Moya celebrated the occasion with her two sons and some of her 20 grandchildren, 15 great-grandchildren and 12 great-great-grandchildren."

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Diaspora for a complete list of articles on immigration issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, and health care issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Pulse . This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

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