Good Shepherd of the Hills Episcopal Church of Cave Creek, Arizona, describes itself as a "little church with a big heart." That big heart has drawn it into the heart of both local and national controversy about migration and day-laborers.
KNXV-TV 13 of Phoenix reports that the parish was asked seven years ago by a parishioner, who was also vice-mayor of the community at the time, to provide a place for migrant day-laborers to connect with potential employers, as well as to receive basic hospitality, food, shelter and to connect with other services. The ministry would also help the city by getting the migrants off the public streets and into a safe space.
Recently, Arizona has enacted legislation meant to crack down on the use of undocumented day-laborers. The town of Cave Creek also passed an anti-loitering ordinance and an ordinance toughening the penalty for illegally stopping a motor-vehicle, all in an effort to banish migrant workers from their streets. The Arizona Republic reports that the local sheriff did not even wait for the new ordinances to take effect and starting arresting migrant workers a week before the laws took effect.
KNXV reports that as vehicles driven by employers and day-laborers left church property, Maricopa County Sheriffs Deputies pulled over the vehicles and arrested day laborer they identified as illegal aliens.
The Rev. Glenn Jenks, Rector of Good Shepherd of the Hills told the Arizona Republic that that . the ordinances and the arrests are shortsighted.
"This may make the sheriff look tough, but it's not in the best interest of the community," Jenks said.
The parish has temporarily stopped the employment aspect of the day worker program while the parish weighs it's options, according to the television station.
According the parish website, the Day Worker Program is self-supporting through a $1 registration fee from the day workers and donations to the program. The program is designed to connect day laborers with employers, and day laborers also maintain the grounds of the church at no charge. Breakfast is provided daily and lunch once a week through volunteers from the parish, neighboring churches and the community. In 2005-06, 110 day workers registered, 70 found permanent work and 35 come to the program daily. Through the program, 7 area physicians, pharmacists and dentists provided 42 people with discounted medical appointments. Good Shepherd of the Hills is a Jubilee Center.
Here is the page from the parish website that describes their local outreach programs.
Last week, the New York Times reported how towns that passed tough anti-immigration laws have begun to rethink their position, including Riverside, New Jersey, which saw legal expenses go up and local business quickly decline after their law was passed.