While all state preambles acknowledge God, only eight states directly or indirectly also name God in their state motto. Arizona is among the eight, as they declare “Ditat Deus,” or “God enriches.” This week, many of us will offer a special prayer that God will enrich Arizona and America with immigration reform that honors the rule of law and respects our Christian traditions in providing a sustainable solution that is not contradictory, but compassionate and comprehensive.
The faith community is one of many groups intensely interested in the intervention of the Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments today regarding the “papers, please” Arizona law known as SB1070. The fact that the highest court will weigh in at this preliminary injunction stage implies several things. It seems clear that the members have been discussing the issue and are confident that they have a majority opinion to render. With Elena Kagan recusing herself, a 4-4 deadlock could result, but the justices surely would not waste their time if such an outcome were even remotely possible. Instead of their typical modus operandi of allowing lower court decisions to percolate for a time before asserting themselves, the justices seem bent on stemming the tide of similar laws from states tired of the federal government’s failure to address immigration reform. The fed’s suit against SB 1070 led to the 9th circuit blocking key provisions of the law, but the Supreme Court will now intervene and help decide for the nation whether this law—and others that mirror it—truly are usurpations of the federal government’s right to enforce immigration law.
Most ironic in this ongoing saga is that much of the impetus for the law, fears of rampant increases in illegal immigration and violence from the undocumented, have never materialized. In fact, a Pew study just released suggests that the net migration flow from Mexico has stopped, and may have even reversed, with more returning to their land than coming to America. Crime statistics in Arizona follow national patterns, which suggest that the undocumented are less likely to commit a crime than the general population. Of course, the Spanish were in Arizona nearly 500 years ago, and the migration of peoples across fluctuating borders in the region has continued for centuries. Some of the earliest Hispanic visitors were priests who came with a message of hope and peace, a message that Hispanic and Anglo clergy alike pray will guide decisions that affect some of the most vulnerable and marginalized within the borders of the “Grand Canyon State.”
And later this week, the community of Clarksdale, Arizona will “celebrate the state’s Centennial and Hispanic culture” with an event they are calling the “Grande Fiesta.” Celebrating Hispanics the same week that the U.S. Supreme Court reviews Arizona laws that clearly target this same group is but one of the many ironies that shape this state. Arizona may have been inaugurated on February 14th, but few Latinas/os are “feeling the love” that first-governor Hunt promised in 1912 when he pledged a “golden rule administration” in the territory “last to be surrendered to civilization by the red man.”
Contiguous America’s final state may have drifted from a “do unto others” philosophy, and is perhaps reserving its Christian compassion for those with legal residency.
-Dr. Carlos Campo is president of Regent University in Virginia Beach and a first generation Cuban-American.