Churches urge Arpaio to cease efforts
Arizona Republic
April 13, 2008


While some Valley religious community leaders have taken a strong stand against Sheriff Joe Arpaio's immigration-enforcement efforts, others are trying to frame the debate in more pious terms.

On Friday, a group of eight church leaders from a variety of faiths released a letter urging Arpaio to reconsider the morality of his crime-suppression operations, which in the past month have brought hundreds of posse members and deputies into areas with a high concentration of Hispanic residents. The efforts resulted in the arrests of more than 150, including 73 suspected of being in the country illegally.

"We call on the sheriff to cease this excessive, wasteful and divisive campaign," reads the letter, signed by a coalition of Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, Church of Christ, and Jewish leaders.

On Saturday afternoon, the dialogue was more subdued when more than 80 evangelical leaders and church members gathered at the Roosevelt Community Church for a presentation on immigration policy and the Bible put on by Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform.

Many of the issues playing out in Arizona and other border states with high immigrant populations were the same concerns that faced Jews and early Christians in the Bible, said Daniel Carroll, an author and seminary professor.

The timing of the event wasn't intended to reflect on Arpaio's recent raids, said Ian Danley, a coordinator with Neighborhood Ministries.

"We don't want to tell pastors what to think about immigration but to give them tools on how to think about immigration," he said.

In the past few weeks, church leaders have referenced the Scripture when denouncing Arpaio's tactics, but Arpaio defends his actions.

"I think it would be immoral for this sheriff not to follow the law and enforce the law," he said.