September 7, 2012
The Church, Phoenix, and Immigration
How Christians in Phoenix are loving the sojourners among them.
Over at ChristianityToday.com you can read a report on how Christians in Phoenix are responding to the immigration issue. The way churches in Arizona have engaged is mixed, but they serve as models for the rest of the country as the presence of undocumented immigrants continues to be a political and cultural issue. Here's an excerpt of the article by Katelyn Beaty and Skye Jethani:
The Department of Homeland Security estimated that by 2011, the number of illegal immigrants in Arizona had dwindled to 360,000, the lowest figure since 2000. Then in 2010, Arizona's governor signed into law what's become a signature, and hotly debated, piece of U.S. immigration legislation. Combined with the economic downturn, SB 1070—which allowed police to stop anyone reasonably suspected to be in the United States illegally at any time—has led to an exodus of Latinos from Maricopa County.
"Many of our churches have lost a lot of members," says Jose Gonzalez, Hispanic director of the nonprofit CityServe Arizona. "One 250-member church dwindled to 100." Gonzalez is a Mexican native who has helped plan crusades for evangelist Luis Palau, making him el conector for hundreds of Latino pastors throughout Phoenix. "Many people are going to another state, going back to Mexico or Latin America. A lot of families are being divided. They are afraid of SB 1070. They don't know the difference between Joe Arpaio and the police department." (Arpaio, self-proclaimed as "America's Toughest Sheriff," pushes strident anti-immigration tactics that have landed him in a civil-rights trial that began the week this story went to press.)
Ian Danley, youth pastor with Neighborhood Ministries, knows one congregation that "went from $6,000 in tithes to $1,500 in one week. The church building was foreclosed, and for the first time in 30 years of ministry, the pastor is looking for a day job."
Local Anglo churches' response to struggling Latinos has been mixed.