The Bishop of Providence Rhode Island, Thomas J. Tobin, and 15 pastors in his diocese may have hit upon a divinely-inspired strategy to prod the Bush Administration, in the sunset of its reign, into putting the kibosh on its aggressive immigration-raids enforcement policies. The strategy is conscientious objection, a principle that the Administration just endorsed with its new proposed rule published on August 21 by the Department of Health and Human Services that would uphold the right of health care professionals to refuse to participate in abortions or other medical procedures that the worker believes would violate personal conscience.

Sauce for the goose is gravy for the gander. Conscientious objection is a lawful basis to refuse to perform work, which though legal, would violate the worker’s conscience. See, e.g., guidance on the legal right to refuse work based on moral scruples issued by the States of California and Washington. Here is what Bishop Tobin and the priests have suggested in an August 19 letter to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after observing a spate of hurtful immigration raids in their state:

What we have witnessed is that the police action of ICE against immigrants has divided the community, instilled fear in our streets, disrupted the everyday life of good people and separated family members, innocent of any crime, from one another. The confusing and secretive detention of those arrested has further complicated the situation. As religious leaders concerned for our people we would be negligent of our pastoral duties if we didn’t speak out against these unjust government policies. . . .

Additionally, we encourage the agents and staff of ICE to evaluate the morality of their participation in immigration raids in the context of their faith and sanctity of their conscience. If their discernment leads them to the conclusion that they cannot participate in such raids in good conscience, we urge them not to do so. If ICE agents refuse to participate in immigration raids in conformity with their faith and conscience, we urge the Federal Government to fully respect the well-founded principles of conscientious objection.

Imagine if ICE agents and staff flat out refused to go on raids. Imagine if Immigration Judges and Government Trial Attorneys did the same. As Bruce Hake has shown us, there are rich scriptural foundations that support a sincere refusal to arrest the undcomented. Lou Dobbs would of course have a conniption fit. But maybe, just maybe, we could revisit our dysfunctional immigration laws and call a pause in our half-baked enforcement policies until a new Administration and Congress could take up a pragmatic and humane effort at comprehensive immigration reform.