Arizona Interfaith Network An Affiliate of the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF)

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Concept Paper on Immigration Reform Border Security,
Comprehensive Reform, and Economic Recovery
July 6, 2010

As the rest of the nation pulls out of the Great Recession, Arizona remains mired in an economic, political, and social crisis largely of its own making. Although pre-recessionary Arizona ranked among the worst in key social indicators for health care, education, and job readiness, during the Recession, the state dug itself into the worst fiscal crisis in its history, hastened by a meltdown in its unregulated housing industry. Politics at the state legislature has remained paralyzed by partisanship and an ideologically motivated "starve the beast" approach to the state's budget woes. Yet as the state teetered on the edge of insolvency, and Arizonans became increasingly frustrated with their state government, Arizona's legislators embraced a new strategy that would deflect the public ire's toward a different target: immigrants.

There is no question that Arizona is ground zero for our nation's broken immigration policies. The scarcity of legal avenues for immigration, coupled with tough enforcement-only policies, have channeled migrants through the Sonoran Desert, creating opportunities for smugglers and others who prey on migrants. Although the flow of migrants has waned with the Recession, Arizonans continue to pay a heavy price for federal inaction, and Arizonans are justifiably frustrated with the inability of lawmakers of both political parties in Washington to solve this problem. Federal failure has allowed local demagogues to fan the public's frustration into a desert storm of controversy, distracting Arizonans from their economic woes with a convenient scapegoat, and creating an issue to boost poll numbers. Arizona's lawmakers can finally say that they are "doing something" after months of inaction on almost everything else.

But these nativist attacks on immigrants will prove to be more costly than Arizona can bear. The 2008 Employer Sanctions Law left thousands jobless and forced an exodus that in many ways precipitated our foreclosure crisis and deep recession by driving away a critical tax-paying and consumer base. Early indications are that the effects of SB1070 will be far more severe. Driven not only by loss of employment, but also by fear of racial profiling, deportation, and separation from their families, thousands of Latinos are heading for more hospitable American states, taking their labor, their spending power, and their tax contributions with them. Although the struggling Arizonan middle-class may view immigrants as an economic threat and welcome their departure, a shrinking population means a smaller economic pie for everyone in the state.

The passage of SB1070 and the frenzy over border security has exposed a fissure the size of the Grand Canyon in the state's social fabric, dividing Anglos and Latinos into opposite and fearful camps. Since laws are normative, SB1070 sanctions and encourages inhospitable and even vigilante behavior, leading to ugly instances of racial discrimination and mistreatment. The children of immigrants, many of them American citizens by birth, are now the targets of laws which would ruthlessly deprive them of education and opportunity, of parents, and of citizenship. We have become like the Egyptians in the time of the Pharaohs: out of fear of scarcity we hoard what we have, view immigrants as a threat to prosperity, and attack their children.

Yet the nation needs immigrants. The demographic shift now underway ties our nation's future prosperity to immigration. Our native-born workforce is declining precisely as our baby boom generation is poised to retire. Home to a large population of retirees, Arizona is in the forefront of this huge demographic shift. By the year 2030, 25% of all Arizonans will be over 65 years of age. At that point, there will be only two workers in the active workforce to support the Social Security costs of each retiree. More immigrant workers, not fewer, will be needed just to replace the jobs vacated by retirees and to buy their homes as they move into retirement locations. Many of those future workers should be the current U.S.-born children of immigrants. Yet Arizona is now planning to systematically attack these children. Instead of viewing the children of immigrants as a threat, Arizonans should be seeing how their interests converge with those of immigrants.

We have forgotten what our faith traditions teach us: to welcome the stranger is to welcome a child of God. And America's history demonstrates that when we are generous, we are blessed among nations. The United States is a country of immigrants. Our nation was founded on a Covenantal understanding of community: in the Constitution, we agreed to unite together, as immigrants from many nations, under one flag, one God, for the common good of all. Although America has prospered from the labor and creativity of immigrants, in recent decades we have forgotten our roots and failed to welcome the strangers among us through a fair, humane, and practical approach to immigration reform. The congregations of the Arizona Interfaith Network (AIN) have a long standing commitment to a fair, comprehensive, and practical solution to the immigration situation that will meet the genuine needs of Arizonans and the entire nation. Immigration reform must address legitimate border security issues and employer compliance. But enforcement alone has been the American policy for decades, and it exacerbates our broken system. Processing the backlog of applicants waiting for unification with legal resident family members will ensure fairness to those waiting in line. Creating a legal avenue for temporary workers will provide American business with workers when there is demand that the American supply of workers can't meet. Protecting the wages and working conditions of those workers will raise the floor for all workers in American by ensuring that business compete on a level playing field. And creating a pathway to permanent residency for 12 million migrants currently living in the shadows will allow America to count and integrate those residents who abide by our laws and are willing to make a contribution to this society. These are the long-term goals of fair and practical immigration reform. Yet in the short-term, we cannot afford to cast aside the most talented young people who have been educated in American schools and know no other country. The DREAM Act would ensure that America receives the benefit of their skills. And in the short-term, the AgJOBS Act would provide American farmers with the ready workforce they need to harvest crops in a timely way.

It is clear that the federal government and 111th U.S. Congress lack the bipartisan determination to pass comprehensive reform legislation. AIN congregations have the potential to create a constructive public dialogue that can guide the debate. They can effect reconciliation between the center right and the center left of the society, initiating a healthy process for thinking together about an immigration policy that works within our economy and culture.

During the past year, the Arizona Interfaith Network has sponsored six statewide gatherings of Arizonans for Immigration Reform, with over 300 clergy and laity from interfaith traditions working toward solutions for Arizona. From these convocations, AIN has adopted a three-fold strategy on immigration, for the benefit of Arizona's cultural, social, and economic future:

  1. Welcome the Sojourner. Immigrants are members of our congregations and are treated with hospitality and dignity. Their family unity is to be respected and protected, and their children cherished. AIN congregations reach out to immigrants, giving them tools to protect the family's security and to integrate them into American life.
  2. Engage our Congregations. Our communion as people of faith calls us to hear the fears and frustrations of all our brothers and sisters. AIN conducts Civic Academies where we explore with our God-given reason the history, economics and demographics around this issue, and engage in civil and loving dialogue with one another, looking at this issue through the lens of our faith traditions. These conversations are particularly important in electoral districts where elected officials need encouragement to move immigration reform forward.
  3. Hold our Elected Officials Accountable. Arizonans elected members to Congress and to the Legislature to do the people's business on important issues. The mood of Arizonans is clear: polls indicate that we want border security AND a pathway to citizenship for those currently in the shadows. These desires are not contradictory: they are both necessary components of immigration reform, and lawmakers who implement one without the other fail to resolve this matter with justice. On May 13 of this year, an AIN delegation including Bishops and key clergy took this message to Washington, meeting with Senator McCain and the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security to oppose SB1070 and to lift up solutions to Arizona's crisis. AIN will continue to press elected officials to take up fair and practical measures such as the DREAM Act or AgJOBS in the short-term, while working toward a comprehensive solution.

Our interfaith community must build the capacity and shape the strategy to speak clearly and forcefully to both the hearts and minds of our state legislative leaders and citizens. We do not want to become complicit through inaction in a process designed to make global orphans out of a whole generation of U.S. children. For the collective prosperity and security of all Arizonans, who are the children of the immigrants and peoples of many cultures who founded our state; and for all our children who are the key to our future prosperity, AIN stands on these principles and commits to these strategies to unify what has been divided, to heal what has been broken. May we remember our traditions, reject the temptation to distract ourselves or to blame the vulnerable for serious issues that face Arizona, and join in this conversation.

• Arizona will Pay a Heavy Price for Draconian Immigration Law Arizona Bishops and the AIN denounce Governor's approval of SB1070 April 23, 2010

Governor Jan Brewer's decision to sign Arizona SB1070 will damage our economy and the social fabric of the state. By codifying racial discrimination, this law makes Arizona the laughing stock of the nation and a pariah on the international stage. The judicatory heads of major Arizona religious denominations and the Arizona Interfaith Network are deeply distressed that by her approval of SB1070, Governor Brewer sacrificed political courage for political expediency.

"This bill does nothing to address any border security concerns," said Bishop Minerva Carcaño of the United Methodist Church, Desert Southwest Conference, "At our borders and in our congregations, schools, workplaces and service programs, we witness the human consequences of an inadequate, outdated system. The passage of SB1070 demonstrates why America needs Comprehensive Immigration Reform: frustration with our broken immigration system is driving Arizona to make inappropriate and self-defeating efforts in this area. We want our broken immigration system to be healed through a just transformation of the law at the appropriate federal level of jurisdiction, which makes it possible to meet the labor needs of American business while making our border secure."

Arizona is ground zero for our nation's broken immigration policies, but SB1070 does nothing to address the root causes of the immigration problem. "This law offends the dignity of all Arizonans," said Bishop Kirk Smith, of the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona. "The tendency to scapegoat a vulnerable population for Arizona's economic stagnation and federal inaction on immigration issues is an unworthy and counterproductive response to the problems we face. This law will make our communities and neighborhoods less safe, it will undermine our efforts to recover from this recession, further strain our broken state budget, and fill our courts with more lawsuits and less justice."

Although the tendency to seek scapegoats during a recession is all too common, Arizona will pay a heavy price for codifying nativism. SB1070 will exacerbate Arizona's economic train wreck, since Latino's -- citizens or not -- will seek a more hospitable place to live, work, pay taxes, and spend their hard-earned money. Since Latinos will fear to report crime, neighborhoods will become less safe. Police resources will be stretched to the breaking point, interfering with their ability to pursue dangerous criminals.

According to Fr. Glenn Jenks of the Arizona Interfaith Network, these are only a few of the reasons this bill is bad law for neighborhoods and for our state economy: "At its root, SB1070 violates the basic moral code that is common to Judaism, Christianity and Islam: we must welcome the stranger as we would welcome God himself. It is time to raise a moral and prophetic voice against this terrible law, which causes even more distress to families and society in general, pushing the immigrant population further into the shadows."

The Arizona Interfaith Network is a non-partisan, broad-based organization composed of congregations, schools and non-profits throughout Arizona, working to strengthen family and community across lines of race, class and religion. AIN has consistently expressed concern that enforcement-only strategies to the complex problem of immigration will harm the economy, undermine public safety and damage the social fabric of our multi-cultural community.

• AIN continues to opposes SB1070

The Arizona Interfaith Network and Arizonans for Immigration Reform continue to oppose SB1070 because of the many problems cited by Fr. Glenn Jenks in his testimony on March 31 before the House Military Affairs and Public Safety Committee, which went well beyond the one concern reported by the Arizona Republic in the following article.
They included:

  • Employers will face increased scrutiny of their employment practices which could discourage them from hiring Latinos in order to avoid lawsuits.
  • Arizona's economy will be hurt by driving away Latinos, who do pay taxes, and by discouraging new businesses from moving to Arizona.
  • Members of the Latino community will feel less willing to cooperate with law enforcement for fear of being challenged regarding their citizenship status.
  • Law enforcement officers will be authorized to arrest, without a warrant, any person the officer believes to be in Arizona without legal documentation.
  • Volunteers driving elderly to appointments could be found guilty of unlawful transporting if they had reason to believe the passenger was undocumented. Personal vehicles could be impounded if the driver were charged with unlawful transport

To read the Arizona Republic article, click here:

• Targeting illegal immigrants, Arizona goes too far

Wednesday, March 17, 2010 - The Washington Post

IN ARIZONA, where the official malice directed at immigrants who came to the United States illegally is unsurpassed, Republican lawmakers are pushing a bill that would criminalize every such immigrant just for being in the state. It's the latest attempt to harass, intimidate and hound the state's several hundred thousand undocumented residents.

Until now, only police departments that have entered into deals with the federal government have been empowered to arrest people on suspicion that they lack proper documentation. The bill, which is expected to clear the legislature in the near future, would broaden that authority and allow such arrests statewide by expanding the definition of trespassing to include the immigrants' mere presence in the state. (In Arizona, misdemeanor trespassing is punishable by up to six months in jail.) It would circumvent the Obama administration's policy of focusing enforcement efforts on undocumented immigrants who have committed serious crimes and who pose a danger to the community.

No other state has gone so far to usurp the federal government's authority over immigration enforcement, or to defy the Fraternal Order of Police, which opposes the legislation because it would subvert police efforts to gain the trust and cooperation of immigrant communities.

Inevitably, the bill would mean more arrests based exclusively on factors such as skin color, accent and clothing. That doesn't seem to bother the bill's backers; nor does it bother them that the state's large population of legal U.S. citizens of Hispanic origin is likely to suffer from increased racial profiling if the legislation is enacted. Perhaps the Republican brand is already so tarnished among Hispanic Americans that more immigrant-bashing by the party will only confirm the party's image as one of hostility to the nation's largest and fastest-growing minority group.

The Obama administration continues to insist it is serious about overhauling the nation's immigration laws, which among other benefits would furnish a pathway to citizenship for an estimated 12 million immigrants who came here illegally. But given the president's political travails and the competition of other legislative priorities, it's hard to see an immigration bill advancing in Congress anytime soon. Tragically, the result of that policy vacuum is likely to be ever more menacing measures targeting Hispanics, driving undocumented immigrants further into the shadows and making life miserable for U.S. citizens for the sin of their ethnic origin.

• The right way to mend immigration

By Charles E. Schumer and Lindsey O. Graham
Friday, March 19, 2010;

Our immigration system is badly broken. Although our borders have become far more secure in recent years, too many people seeking illegal entry get through. We have no way to track whether the millions who enter the United States on valid visas each year leave when they are supposed to. And employers are burdened by a complicated system for verifying workers' immigration status.

Last week we met with President Obama to discuss our draft framework for action on immigration. We expressed our belief that America's security and economic well-being depend on enacting sensible immigration policies.

The answer is simple: Americans overwhelmingly oppose illegal immigration and support legal immigration. Throughout our history, immigrants have contributed to making this country more vibrant and economically dynamic. Once it is clear that in 20 years our nation will not again confront the specter of another 11 million people coming here illegally, Americans will embrace more welcoming immigration policies.

Our plan has four pillars: requiring biometric Social Security cards to ensure that illegal workers cannot get jobs; fulfilling and strengthening our commitments on border security and interior enforcement; creating a process for admitting temporary workers; and implementing a tough but fair path to legalization for those already here.

Besides border security, ending illegal immigration will also require an effective employment verification system that holds employers accountable for hiring illegal workers. A tamper-proof ID system would dramatically decrease illegal immigration, experts have said, and would reduce the government revenue lost when employers and workers here illegally fail to pay taxes.

We would require all U.S. citizens and legal immigrants who want jobs to obtain a high-tech, fraud-proof Social Security card. Each card's unique biometric identifier would be stored only on the card; no government database would house everyone's information. The cards would not contain any private information, medical information, nor tracking devices. The card will be a high-tech version of the Social Security card that citizens already have.

Prospective employers would be responsible for swiping the cards through a machine to confirm a person's identity and immigration status. Employers who refused to swipe the card or who otherwise knowingly hired unauthorized workers would face stiff fines and, for repeat offenses, prison sentences.

We propose a zero-tolerance policy for gang members, smugglers, terrorists and those who commit other felonies after coming here illegally. We would bolster recent efforts to secure our borders by increasing the Border Patrol's staffing and funding for infrastructure and technology. More personnel would be deployed to the border immediately to fill gaps in apprehension capabilities.

Other steps include expanding domestic enforcement to better apprehend and deport those who commit crimes and completing an entry-exit system that tracks people who enter the United States on legal visas and reports those who overstay their visas to law enforcement databases.

Ending illegal immigration, however, cannot be the sole objective of reform. Developing a rational legal immigration system is essential to ensuring America's future economic prosperity.

Ensuring economic prosperity requires attracting the world's best and brightest. Our legislation would award green cards to immigrants who receive a PhD or master's degree in science, technology, engineering or math from a U.S. university. It makes no sense to educate the world's future inventors and entrepreneurs and then force them to leave when they are able to contribute to our economy.

Our blueprint also creates a rational system for admitting lower-skilled workers. Our current system prohibits lower-skilled immigrants from coming here to earn money and then returning home. Our framework would facilitate this desired circular migration by allowing employers to hire immigrants if they can show they were unsuccessful in recruiting an American to fill an open position; allowing more lower-skilled immigrants to come here when our economy is creating jobs and fewer in a recession; and permitting workers who have succeeded in the workplace, and contributed to their communities over many years, the chance to earn a green card.

For the 11 million immigrants already in this country illegally, we would provide a tough but fair path forward. They would be required to admit they broke the law and to pay their debt to society by performing community service and paying fines and back taxes. These people would be required to pass background checks and be proficient in English before going to the back of the line of prospective immigrants to earn the opportunity to work toward lawful permanent residence.

The American people deserve more than empty rhetoric and impractical calls for mass deportation. We urge the public and our colleagues to join our bipartisan efforts in enacting these reforms.

Charles E. Schumer is a Democratic senator from New York. Lindsey O. Graham is a Republican senator from South Carolina.

• An Interfaith Call for Immigration Reform -
   Arizonans for Immigration Reform, January 22, 2010

As people of many diverse faith traditions, yet with one voice, we call on the 44th President of the United States and the 111th Congress to enact humane and comprehensive immigration reform now.

Our diverse faith traditions challenge us to welcome the stranger among us with compassion and hope, trusting in God’s generosity. We respect the rule of law; but our immigration laws do not fit the reality of our communities and our nation, leading to growing fear and abuse of immigrants. A nation’s moral stature can be measured by the way it treats the most vulnerable in its midst. Our prayer is that we may find common ground, address the legitimate concerns posed by immigration, and heal our broken immigration system through a just transformation of the law.

In our holy writings, we are called to love sojourners, and to integrate them into our communities. The Hebrew Bible tells us: "The strangers who sojourn with you shall be to you as the natives among you, and you shall love them as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 19:33-34). In the New Testament, Jesus tells us to welcome the stranger, for "what you do to the least of my brethren, you do unto me” (Matthew 25:40). The Qur'an tells us that we should “do good to…those in need, neighbors who are near, neighbors who are strangers, the companion by your side, the wayfarer that you meet” (4:36). To welcome the stranger is to welcome a child of God.

Arizona is ground zero for our nation’s broken immigration policies. At our borders and in our congregations, schools, workplaces and service programs, we witness the human consequences of an inadequate, outdated system. Border communities strain to accommodate the newcomers; families suffer long periods of separation; undocumented workers are exploited and live in fear of indiscriminate raids by law enforcement; and increasingly nativist local legislation scapegoats immigrants, fueling anti-immigrant fervor and planting distrust of all public officials in the hearts of migrants. No one – businessmen, immigrants, policymakers – finds the law to be a coherent guide to the complex questions our communities face. It offends the dignity of all human beings. As people of faith, we pray to end this injustice by enacting comprehensive immigration reform.

Together, we call on President Obama and the 111th Congress to commit to the following key principles for immigration reform:

Our traditions recognize that all the goods of the earth belong to all people. All persons have the right to find in their own countries the economic, political, religious and social opportunities to live in dignity, provide for their families, and achieve a full life through the use of the gifts bestowed upon them; yet they also have the right to migrate when there is no other way to support their families. As a nation, we can help create the conditions that will give people an alternative to migration by supporting organizations working to reduce poverty in developing nations and by adopting fair trade policies, fostering equitable development for all.

The mass deportation of undocumented persons here now is extremely costly and virtually impossible; regularizing status is not only possible but brings economic benefit for all. We are not calling for amnesty; but rather we urge immigration reform that allows undocumented migrants and their families to earn lawful permanent residency with a pathway to citizenship through appropriate steps such as registration, background checks, learning English, and payment of reasonable fees. Immigrants who regularize their status would wait their turn for citizenship, in keeping with principles of fairness for all immigrants. Overly punitive criteria, such as exorbitant fees or mandating that immigrants leave the country, or making the process conditional upon complete success of border enforcement measures, would be counterproductive and should be avoided.

Our faith traditions are also deeply rooted in the sanctity of the family, the essential institution for the development of healthy individuals and strong communities. We call on the new Administration and Congress to 1) expeditiously reunite immigrant families separated due to lengthy visa backlogs; 2) prioritize family unity in the immigration process; and 3) remove bars to reentry and adjustment of status for individuals seeking to reunite with their family members. Attempts to devalue the family, such as denying birthright citizenship to the children of immigrants or placing family-based and employment-based visa applicants in competition with each other on a point-based system, must be rejected in order to maintain and promote family unity.

The outdated immigration system denies an orderly process for immigrants to enter legally or legalize their situation, and prevents communities from tapping the talents and potential of valuable contributors to our society and economy. We call for an expansion of legal avenues for migrant workers whom our nation will need in order to meet our future workforce needs. Since human work participates in God’s activity of creation, workers’ rights must be fully protected, including the ability to bring their families with them, travel as needed, change their place of employment, and apply for lawful permanent residency and eventually citizenship. Care should be exercised with electronic employment verification programs, which have resulted in increased discrimination and unfair hiring and firing practices. All workers benefit from the enforcement of health, safety, wage, and hour laws, as well as the right to organize peacefully. As people of faith we must protect the dignity of migrants’ labor and respect their economic contributions to the United States.

Immigration policies should respect the rights and inherent human dignity of migrants and ensure due process for all. Indiscriminate immigration raids by opportunistic local law enforcement officials have caused trauma, fear and hardship for thousands of individuals. Such raids separate families, destroy communities, and threaten the basic rights of immigrants and U.S. citizens alike, underscoring the problems with current U.S. immigration policies and the urgent need for reform.
Witnessing the toll of incarceration on detainees, their families and our communities, we urge the new Administration and Congress to reduce the use of detention for immigrants and improve detention conditions by enacting clear, enforceable reforms that include rigorous medical treatment standards and increased access to pastoral care and legal counsel. Furthermore, we call on the government to expedite the release of individuals who pose no risk to the community and to expand the use of humane and cost-effective community-based alternatives to detention.

One may be a stranger for a time but it is unjust for immigrants to remain strangers “outside the gates” through exclusion from full participation in American society for the long run. Many immigrants desire to naturalize but lack the necessary tools. Immigration reform policies should streamline the naturalization process, by processing application backlogs and expediting security checks to reduce waiting times. Counterproductive laws prohibiting immigrants from accessing social services and mandating that local police act as immigration officials should be revoked. These barriers to integration decrease community safety and discourage immigrants from pursuing education and community involvement.

Our traditions also recognize the right of sovereign nations to control their territories and impose reasonable limits on immigration; however, the more powerful economic nations, which have the ability to protect and feed their own residents, have an obligation to accommodate migration flows whenever possible. Border policies must be consistent with humanitarian values and with the need to treat all individuals with respect, while allowing the United States to implement immigration laws that identify and prevent the entry of persons who commit dangerous crimes. Currently, vast resources are being used for fence construction and the mass arrests, detention, and deportation of immigrants who contribute to the U.S. economy and culture. Immigration reform is a key element to ensuring our country’s safety because it would allow the federal government to focus on genuine threats posed by those seeking to do the country harm, rather than on individuals who lack status but have committed no other crimes and desire to make a positive contribution to this country.

The United States is a country of immigrants. Our nation was founded on a covenantal understanding of community: in the Constitution, we agreed to unite together, as immigrants from many nations, under one flag, one God, for the common good of all. Today as a people of faith, we call attention to the moral dimensions of public policy, and recommend reforms which uphold the God-given dignity of every person, made in the image of God. Fundamental human rights such as the right to migrate and the right to support a family are critical to the repair of our nation’s immigration policies. Because we value family unity, justice, equity, compassion, love, and the humane treatment of all persons, we dedicate ourselves, in our teaching and our witness, to calling for immigration reform. It is our collective prayer that President Obama and 111th Congress enact just immigration reform based on these tenets.

To view a brief video of the Convocation, click here.

• Immigration Reform

The Arizona Interfaith Network (AIN) has a long standing commitment to immigration reform. Concerns about immigration policies and their effect on families and the work place have been heard repeatedly in individual meetings and house meetings with leaders from our member congregations.

On April 2, 2004, AIN brought these concerns to the public at a Press Conference on the lawn of the State Senate.

Judicatory heads publicly endorsed a Statement on Immigration.

Since May 2004, AIN has worked with the National Immigration Forum and other national groups committed to immigration reform. AIN supports the six basic elements of comprehensive immigration reform:

  • Reform Must Be Comprehensive
  • Provide a Path to Citizenship
  • Protect Workers
  • Reunite Families
  • Restore the Rule of Law and Enhance Security
  • Promote Citizenship and Civic Participation and Help Local Communities

For more information, visit Arizonans for Immigration Reform at


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