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“Emergency Delegation” of Clergy Brings McCain Real Talk on Arizona

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Last week, a group of prominent Arizona clergy, including Catholic and Methodist bishops, an Evangelical pastor, a rabbi and an Ecumenical leader, felt called to mount an “emergency delegation” to Washington to “prod, encourage and advocate” (as Catholic Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson told the Los Angeles Times) for passage of comprehensive immigration reform and a delay in putting Arizona law SB 1070 into effect. During a meeting with their senator John McCain, the faith leaders bore witness to the lessons they’ve learned ministering to Arizonans: border security is only one part of an effective and humane solution to our broken immigration system that only leaders in Washington will be able to build.

Arizona’s faith community has condemned S.B. 1070 across the board, and it appears that for the time being, if anyone is going to lead the state out of the moral crisis it’s in, it will have to be the faith leaders, until Arizona’s Senate delegation is willing to come back to the table toward a comprehensive solution. Here are some highlights of the press conference the delegation held after meeting with McCain, via Faith in Public Life:

Time magazine reported that this was Evangelical pastor Gary Kinnaman’s message to the Senator:

“We need people who will lead us out of this.”

Instead of leading, McCain has fenced himself in by pushing short-sighted “border first” policies. But Bishop Kicanas and his fellow religious leaders reminded the Senator (according to CNS News) that “in and of itself, that is simply not going to solve the problems we face as a country.” The need for a comprehensive fix to the broken immigration system weighs on Bishop Kicanas and his fellow faith leaders every day:

“Illegal immigration is not good for anyone. It’s not good for someone dying in the desert, trying to come into this country to work. It’s not good for country to not know who is entering the country. We need legal avenues, which would prevent the difficulties we currently face.”

While Arizona clergy see the humanitarian emergency the broken immigration system has created, however, Senator McCain seems to have bought into secondhand rumors and myth. EFE reports that Rev. Jan Flaaten, executive director of the Arizona Ecumenical Council, had to correct the facts McCain gave them as an excuse to justify his lack of leadership (translated from Spanish):

“According to Flaaten, McCain, who defended immigration reform in 2008, told them that the increase in violence along the Mexican border in the last three years due to drug trafficking justified focusing on border security first.

But Flaaten pointed out that ‘statistics show that crime hasn’t increased significantly.'”