Friday, February 3, 2017

If you help your church's aid to refugees, you are a criminal says Burges' SB1468

Yesterday I posted this item on how AZ Senate Bill 1468 criminalizes churches and other charities I worried a bit about not understanding the legal fine points thus making my post a bit of an overreaction. This morning I stopped worrying and just got angrier.

You see, SB1468 is not the first attempt to punish churches for aiding refugees, that is, helping them become independent, law-abiding, tax-paying citizens. Here are snippets from the report by Howard Fischer back in March 2016 carried by the Daily Star, House committee OKs bill to make charities liable for refugee crimes.

The House Judiciary Committee voted 4–2 to make any charity that helps resettle refugees from certain countries financially liable for any crimes they commit within the first five years they are here. And to back that up, the charities would have to obtain $25 million in liability insurance or face civil fines of up to $1,000 a day for each of the refugees it has resettled in the past five years.

SB 1452, crafted by state Sen. Judy Burges, R-Sun City West, is very specific, targeting only refugees who are from “high-risk” countries. And that is defined in a way to include many countries from the Middle East that have been a source of new Arizona residents.

Ron Johnson, who lobbies for Arizona Catholic Charities, said this would be the first such law like this in the country. He questioned both its necessity and its legality.

… Johnson said it is wrong to hold charities, which may help a family for six months, financially responsible for five years.

Now fast forward by about a year to the present legislative session. Howard Fischer reports again in the Daily Star on the current version of the “punish the criminal churches” bill, GOP lawmakers want to penalize charities that help resettle refugees in Arizona.

Unable to block the federal government from sending refugees to Arizona, six Republican lawmakers want to penalize the charities that help them resettle here.

Sen. Judy Burges of Sun City West is leading the effort. Her legislation, SB 1468, would specifically require the Arizona Department of Economic Security to suspend its participation in the federally funded refugee resettlement program.

But as other states that have taken similar steps found, that would not stop the refugees. The federal government would continue to send people to the state, but without cooperation and coordination with the state.

So, the potentially more far-reaching part of Burges’ legislation would impose a fine on charities of $1,000 a day for each refugee they help place in the state. And if a refugee is arrested, the charity would be financially liable for the cost of arrest, prosecution and incarceration.

The above point in emphasis is new, I believe. As last year, Ron Johnson objects.

The measure concerns Ron Johnson, who lobbies for Catholic Charities, one of the groups involved in helping refugees resettle in the state.

“Obviously we’re all concerned with proper vetting and national security,” he said. “But that’s not something we do with Catholic Charities. Once they’re here, we help them find a job, find a place to live, learn the language, all kind of good things that help them be a part of society so they’re not dependent on the government.”

Johnson said Burges and other sponsors of SB 1468 are focusing on the wrong end of the problem.

“To punish the Good Samaritans that are trying to help them is a bit misplaced,” he said. “These people are already here.”

By placing a financial punishment on churches (Catholic and Lutheran, included) for their charitable acts crosses the line between church and state, effectively making the congregations of the churches complicit in criminal acts.

Those “other sponsors of the legislation include Sen. Sonny Borrelli of Lake Havasu City and Reps. Mark Finchem of Oro Valley, Vince Leach of Tucson, Anthony Kern of Glendale and Don Shooter of Yuma.”

How about some letters to the editor calling out Burges and her co-sponsors for the heartless legislation. Even if SB1468 fails, the history suggests that it will return next year in an even more repulsive form.

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