Alabama Charity Turning Away Needy Based On Citizenship

(Source: al.com)

When Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) signed Alabama’s extreme anti-immigrant bill into law, church leaders worried that provisions of the law would prevent them from even providing transportation to undocumented immigrants so that they could attend religious services. Alabama clergy filed a lawsuit challenging the law, saying it would “make it a crime to follow God’s command to be Good Samaritans.” And when Judge Sharon Blackburn ruled that the state could implement key portions of the immigration law, like asking school children about their immigration status when they enroll, she did temporarily halt a portion of the law that made it illegal to transport or house an undocumented immigrant, which was the portion of the law that most concerned the church leaders.

But regardless of the law, one religious charity in Decatur, Alabama is turning away individuals who cannot prove their immigration status. The Committee on Church Cooperation, a not-for-profit organization supported by local churches in Morgan County, announced that it is enforcing a policy to ask everyone for a Morgan County photo ID, a social security number and proof of income for each person in the household, and proof of Morgan County residency before it offers food, clothing, or assistance. Gayle Monk, CCC executive director, told the Decatur Daily that the organization has taken extra steps to prevent undocumented immigrants from receiving help. “We’ve even got wind that a lot of them have illegal Social Security cards. So I’ve tried to educate my staff on what to look for,” Monk said:

It used to be about 10 percent (Hispanics) that we served,” Monk said. “Since cracking down, I haven’t seen anybody, especially in the last month.

“I think word kind of got around. We really had to crack down because they would come in, and they wouldn’t have any documents.” […]

Monk, who has been director for two months, said the renewed focus on documentation was not advertised, but word got around.

“People talk among themselves,” Monk said. “They knew they couldn’t get by with finagling, so they stopped coming here. It’s been a while since I’ve seen any Hispanics walk through our door.”

According to the organization’s Facebook page, it has been their policy since 1973 to ask for proof of residency and a social security card — although the organization admits that the policy has not “always been strictly enforced.” Monk said the organization does not discriminate.

Regarding the policy, pastors told the Decatur Daily they were unsure of the policy. Bill Hurt, pastor of First Baptist Church of Decatur, said he was uncomfortable with citizenship being a requirement to receive help. Bishop Will Willimon of the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church was surprised by the policy, saying, “I can’t imagine what biblical basis would cause them to take such a stance.”

In fact, turning away those in need would seem to be the exact opposite of Christian teachings. In Matthew 25:40, the Bible reads, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”