Conference Report (Immigration)

Saints from around the world convened on Temple Square yesterday, and here’s my report of the conference proceedings–of two immigration bills before the U.S. Congress. I’ll summarize some of the public policy April_2006_statute of liberty jig 239 pix 4  pieces gone supernovachoices offered by the proposed changes, then end with these questions:

Do LDS scripture and teachings inform your/my/our attitudes towards U.S. immigration policy, and, should they?

But first, here are some notes on the context in which we find ourselves:

  • Through the mid 20th century, U.S. laws regarding who could immigrate to the U.S. (and who could become a citizen) were racially restrictive, with a judicially and legislatively expressed goal of shaping the U.S. populace to be “white.” As one of various instances of this, in 1882 the Chinese Exclusion Act preventing Chinese from immigrating here. As another, in 1921, Congress established a temporary quota system expressly designed “to confine immigration as much as possible to western and northern European stock”; this quota system was made permanent in the National Origin Act of 1924 (these quotas were ended in 1965).
  • The U.S. response to the presence of large numbers of illegal immigrants has been varied. In the early 1930s, we forcibly deported between 350,000 to 2 million U.S. residents of Mexican descent (no official count was kept and the estimates vary, some estimate about half of these were U.S. citizens). On the other hand, the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 offered citizenship to about 2.5 million illegal immigrants. The Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act of 1997 offered citizenship to near one million illegal immigrants from Central America. Several other acts, from 1994 to 2000, have offered citizenship to smaller numbers, including the Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act Amnesty of 1998 which applied to around 100,000 Haitian-Americans.
  • Today, in early 2006, there are 11-12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S.
  • If past trends continue, in the next few years, millions of more immigrants will seek to enter the U.S., most seeking to improve their economic circumstances, some trying to avoid political, religious, or social repression.
  • Many in the U.S. have an increased sensitivity to immigration due to the 9/11/01 attacks.
  • The U.S. economy has been quite robust over recent decades, accompanied by a relatively low level of unemployment. Some economists argue that a continued supply of inexpensive immigrant labor has been an important part of this economic success. Some people argue the principal impact of immigrant labor has been downward wage pressure on low-skill wages.


House bill 4437 (the ” Border Protection, Anti-terrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act”) passed the House in December ’05. The competing Senate bill 1033 (the “Secure American and Orderly Immigration Act”) has not yet been voted on. Some of the policy questions these bills pose through their proposals are:

  • Should current illegal immigrants be deported (H.R. 4437), allowed to work legally as temporary workers (S. 1033), or given the opportunity to seek citizenship (1033)?
  • Should it be a crime for a U.S. citizen to provide aid to an illegal immigrant (4437)?
  • Should the U.S. construct a physical wall to prevent immigrants from entering the southern border (4437)?
  • Should we significantly increase the number of work visas made available each year to professional (H1-B visas) and other workers (1033)?
  • Is a high volume of immigration generally desirable, for economic or ethical reasons?
  • Should illegal immigrants be eligible for government services (such as public schools, driver’s licenses, welfare services)?
  • If we accept for a moment the debatable assertion that immigrant labor reduces the total number of available jobs, as an ethical matter, why should I prefer that my relatively wealthy U.S. citizen neighbor receive a job over my Central American much-less-wealthy neighbor?

Those are some of the decisions we are facing now. I don’t intend to initiate a policy debate (but am not opposed to one). For this post, my questions are: “Do LDS scripture and teachings inform your/my/our attitude towards immigration? Should they?”

As an example of faith impacting immigration policy, a March 3 NY Times editorial noted that: “Cardinal Roger Mahony of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the nation’s largest, urged parishioners on Ash Wednesday to devote the 40 days of Lent to fasting, prayer and reflection on the need for humane reform of immigration laws. If current efforts in Congress make it a felony to shield or offer support to illegal immigrants [H.R. 4437], Cardinal Mahony said, he will instruct his priests — and faithful lay Catholics — to defy the law.”

As a limited example of scriptures/teachings that might bear on this topic for some, consider:

The Beatitudes, AoF 11-13, Col 3:8-14 (ye have have “put on the new man… Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all….Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another”), and the parable of the Good Samaritan.

–Stirling Adams


Text of House bill 4437
Text of Senate bill 1033
Ian F. Haney Lopez, White by Law: The Legal Construction of Race
March 31 Time Magazine poll of U.S. attitudes toward immigration

Leon Gieco’s “De igual a igual,” off his Bandidos Rurales album:

“…Los llamados ilegales
que no tienen documentos
son desesperanzados
sin trabajo y sin aliento

Ilegales son los que
dejaron ir a Pinochet
Inglaterra se jactaba
de su honor y de su ley

Si me pedís que vuelva otra vez donde nací
yo pido que tu empresa se vaya de mi país
así­ será de igual a igual.”


  1. For me, that last decision bullet is the tough one. I favor offering amnesty now to the current illegal immigrants, I favor increasing the number of permament work visas we offer going forward.
    The Q you pose (“why should I prefer that my [U.S. neighbor] over my Central American much-less-wealthy neighbor?”) is similar to the NT question of “who is my neighbor?” And, based on my acceptance of NT teachings, I’readily agree that “neighbor” isn’t limited by those who match my nationality, citizenship, skin color, religion, etc.
    BUT, then the question becomes, where does one draw the line? It’s not practical to say every person on earth can immigrate to the U.S., so how do we ethically decide who can? Fortunately, as you point out, the answer to that question is no longer principally based on race, although I suspect if the bulk of the 12M illegal aliens were from Western Europe, the politics of this situation would be different.

  2. It’s unclear from past experience that the U.S. is capable of enforcing immigration laws. Therefore, I think we’re largely facing a choice between: having a bunch of immigrants who help drive our economy and who are not covered by labor and other laws, or having those same immigrants be included in existing legislation. I don’t see any way that the second option is worse than the first. Senate bill 1033 seems a step in the right direction; house bill 4437 is, I think, a sadistic joke. (A wall along the border?)

  3. Well, I don’t know …

    But I think that LDS scripture makes it pretty clear that we tolerate nationalism, but it absolutely has no place in the LDS world-view.

    The primary question that ought to concern Mormons is “will immigration help our efforts to spread the Gospel or not?”

  4. Should current illegal immigrants be deported (H.R. 4437), allowed to work legally as temporary workers (S. 1033), or given the opportunity to seek citizenship (1033)?

    Work legally as temporary workers and given the opportunity to seek citizenship.

    Should it be a crime for a U.S. citizen to provide aid to an illegal immigrant (4437)?


    Should the U.S. construct a physical wall to prevent immigrants from entering the southern border (4437)?


    Should we significantly increase the number of work visas made available each year to professional (H1-B visas) and other workers (1033)?

    Yes. Exponentially. From India to China, there are millions of students a year graduating from college with things like computer science degrees. We should capture as many of these as possible.

    Is a high volume of immigration generally desirable, for economic or ethical reasons?

    Yes. For economic reasons. Immigration should be as open as possible.

    Should illegal immigrants be eligible for government services (such as public schools, driver’s licenses, welfare services)?

    Leave this up to the states. I’ll either move to one without a lot of illegals or that provides no benefits.

    If we accept for a moment the debatable assertion that immigrant labor reduces the total number of available jobs, as an ethical matter, why should I prefer that my relatively wealthy U.S. citizen neighbor receive a job over my Central American much-less-wealthy neighbor?

    I reject that assumption. If they are both US citizens, you should not prefer one over the other. Otherwise, you should prefer the US Citizen to the potential immigrant (whether it’s the wealthy neighbor or the Central American) because utilitarianism is bunk–it doesn’t take into account loyalty and responsibility. Basically, we should work to feed our own children before we work to feed the children of others even if the same number of children get fed either way. Likewise, we should fight to defend our own nation before we fight to defend other nations. We should make sure that our fellow citizens are taken care of before we work to take care of citizens of other countries.

  5. Amri Brown says:

    I hate that primary question. Can’t I sometimes just think about the people, or the issue, or even myself and what I think would be best for my country before I think about how it’s going to advance the evangelical mission of the church? I vote yes.

  6. Seth R. says:

    Hate is a strong word Amri.

    If you don’t put God first in your life, it will make little difference in the end what you put first instead.

  7. NeD (non-Extreme Dorito) says:

    I first visited bycc after seeing it referred to on T&S as a “liberal” M site. Once I arrived, I was struck by how conservative most of the commenters were, and how little difference there was between bycc and T&S. But now, I starting to sense some differentiation. Bycc has the best Mormon Gollum, and this post is a nice opposite of A.Greenwood’s anti-immigration rant on T&S.

  8. Mark B. says:

    Interesting that DKL would move to a state that provides no education benefits to a certain class of children. (It’d be hard to find such a place, by the way, since the Supreme Court, in Plyler v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202 (1982), held unconstitutional a Texas law that would have withheld funds from school districts for the education of undocumented alien children.)

    Even if the law permitted it, why on earth would anyone want to live in a state that prohibited a class of its children from attending school??

  9. DKL, thanks for your response in #4.
    At the end, you write, “We should make sure that our fellow citizens are taken care of before we work to take care of citizens of other countries.”
    I think that in some circumstances that sentiment may be wise, but I don’t think it works as a general rule for determining the ethical choice. One reason for this is that U.S. citizens are so wealthy in comparison to my hypothetical Central American that they (the U.S. citizens) are in a much better economic position and are likely to be already “taken care of” through public schooling, greater job opportunities in a much larger market, greater mobility, etc.
    Also, I don’t see this as a zero-sum game. Helping the Central American doesn’t mean the U.S. citizen is necessarily harmed. In our economoy, it just means she will (most likely) find a different opportunity that also meets her needs.
    Additionally, there seem to be reasonable arguments that including the global community in our market offers benefits to our U.S. citizen neighbors (as your openness to incoming international labor seems to accept). My providing work to the Central American may benefit our hypothetical U.S. citizen through more inexpensive consumer products (due to more efficient matching of labor and capital), and through introduction of the diversity of the Central American’s culture (banana-leaf-wrapped tamales, music rhythyms, etc.). Whaddyathink?

    Nice graphic, Stirling. It’s nice when even lawyers are using PhotoShop.

    As evidence that this issue doesn’t settle evenly over the jagged conservative/liberal lines, see the article in SL Tribune, about the position Utah House Rep. Chris Cannon is in. Cannon has traditionally been viewed as/acted as one of the more “conservative” members of Congress. But, last campaign season and now, he’s getting heat from some in Utah for his immigration positions, which includes openness to a guest worker program and to current immigrants seeking citizenship. (I’m mildly suprised to find myself saying this, but) Go Chris!

  11. Seth, putting God first in your life would entail the primary question, “Will it reduce suffering and better care for my brothers and sisters?”

  12. Seth R. says:

    Reducing suffering of my fellow men is not the primary concern when asking whether I am following God or not.

    Usually, following God’s will results in reducing suffering for my fellow human beings. BUT NOT ALWAYS.

    You follow God. Regardless of whether it makes other people happy or not. My following God is not dependent on some utilitarian calculation. God’s plan for the nations may entail quite a lot of suffering for many nations. The primary question is whether we are following God, not whether we are making ANYONE happy.

  13. I think the 12th article of faith is the driving gospel principle here. Additionally the scriptures state

    ” 21 Let no man break the laws of the land, for he that keepeth the laws of God hath no need to break the laws of the land.
    22 Wherefore, be subject to the powers that be, until he reigns whose right it is to reign, and subdues all enemies under his feet.”
    (Doctrine and Covenants | Section 58:21 – 22)

    We should be subject to the laws of the land. Any member of the church who is not obeying the law of the land should repent and seek to obey the law of the land.

    I believe immigration is good when done under the proper law. I also believe it is deterimental to society when the laws are not followed. Such is the state of our nation.

    Amnesty??? Im not so sure that this is a good thing in all cases nor a bad thing for those who are contributing to society. Lincoln was correct in that it is better to be charitable than to hold malice.

    Making sure our borders are controlled is paramount in protecting our citizens and a fundimental function of our government. Without this we are held hostage to invasion and crime.

    Holding employers responsible, Yes this is the correct thing to do. Illegal imigrants would soon go home and try to enter the country in a lawful way if employers were forced to abide by the laws of the land.

    A reasonable work visa program would tend to solve much of the problem. If you couple all of these items into a peice of legislation we would perhaps have a reasonable solution.

    I suggest that we all turn our hearts to prayer and invoke the blessings of God over our elected officials and write to them of our concerns.

  14. Kirke (Kiskilili) says:

    Seth, your primary question makes sense to me if we understand “spreading the Gospel” to mean showing Christian love to our neighbors (i.e. everyone), rather than shoving Truth at people. Genuine love does tend to result in the happiness of others.

    I’m interested in your take as it relates to this actual issue, though. Is God’s plan for other nations to suffer and for us not to intervene? Does God ever call upon our own nation to suffer, or does this divine plan only apply to other people? (I don’t mean this in a snarky way–you point to interesting ethical dilemmas. But it does seem awfully convenient to me any time we write off others’ suffering as God’s will.)

    If immigration is a concern (and I’m not convinced it should be), it seems the only long-term solution is to improve conditions in the rest of the world.

  15. Kathleen Petty says:

    There is a very large house going up near me (it has been going up for five years but that is beside the point.) Every day a crowd of workers arrive who appear to be Hispanic (or Latin American–I am not sure which is correct.) I don’t know if they are legal or illegal. I do know they arrive early, work late (into the evening) and are there on the weekends. They are doing the hard work–hauling wet dirt around in wheelbarrows. Shoveling. Throwing stuff in the dumpster. They often aren’t dressed for the weather. I hear reports from eastern Washington that the fruit crop won’t be picked unless there are migrants to do it. As one human being to another, we owe something to the people who do this work. I think there should be guest worker visas. I think they should be offered the chance for citizenship. The idea of a fence to keep them out is abhorrent. I think their children should be educated. Everything I read says the situation is complicated. Experts counter experts on whether or not these people pay taxes, depress wages, take jobs away from American citizens. I think the governments of the countries they are from bear some responsibility for the conditions that drive their citizens North, but we cannot do much about that. I think our sense of Christian brotherhood, our Mormon heritage (we went West for opportunity and peace), and our common humantity demands that we do something to allow these people in, even if that something isn’t perfect.

  16. Seth R. says:

    RE #14:

    My primary point is that loyalty to God is absolute and does not depend on whether He happens to be conforming to our pet issues of ethics and morality.

    My point is that we are so ignorant of what is truly the “greatest good” within an eternal sense, that we are ill advised to start making our loyalty to God dependant on secondary values.

    I am worried that several people I’ve read (throughout the bloggernacle, not just here) are in effect, saying:

    “I’ll believe in God as long as He agrees with me.”

    I’ve have heard some say, in effect, that they refuse to believe in a God that isn’t a feminist for example. I’ve heard some exalt secondary values like democracy to the point where they refuse to believe in a Church that does not place democracy at the pinnacle of the morality ladder.

    God being God is not dependant on values like equality, kindness, fairness, or anything else in isolation. It is an interplay of such values that makes Him divine. No one value trumps the others.

    Furthermore, I am open to the idea that God’s ethics may be vastly different from ours in some ways, while remaining similar in other ways.

    Ann’s comment said this:

    “putting God first in your life would entail the primary question, ‘Will it reduce suffering and better care for my brothers and sisters?'”

    Now, I think what she meant is that putting God first will logically lead to concern for the welfare of our fellow man. Which I wholeheartedly endorse.

    However, her characterization of this consideration as “primary” implies that this is the first and foremost thing we should be considering when we find a place for God in our sphere of influence.

    This I disagree with. The welfare of others is not the “first and foremost” (primary) consideration when we speak of obedience. Obedience has value in our theology regardless of whether it makes sense. You can’t go halfway with this. If you’re going to follow God, you have to be willing to follow Him regardless of whether He seems to conform to your personal morals and predjudices.

  17. I’m curious as to the hostility Seth and DKL show for “utilitarianism.” In some individual circumstances (feeding my family as opposed to sending my income to Africa to feed a greater number of people) it may not be practical or the most ethical choice, but as a general rule, it seems like a good idea, and in synch with our religious values (serving others, willingness to sacrifice, emphasis on love, aiding the poor).

    I’m assuming by “utiliatarianism” we mean, roughly,
    the theory that all actions should be aimed at achieving the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people. Probably with John Stuart Mill’s gloss that
    emphasized cultural and spiritual happiness.

  18. I don’t think it’s too hard to divine God’s ethical mandates, consider Matt: 22:35-40(“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God…[and] thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”), the Golden Rule, etc.

    Based on that Christian/LDS grounding, I find myself very sympathetic to the plight of immigrants, and I favor helping however we can, as individuals and as a country. However, the difficulty for me is when it comes to amnesty for illegal entry. I’m stuck because I don’t want to reward illegal behavior. What to do?
    Ann (feeling somewhat hypocritical because I have European great-grandparents who it appeared were “illegal” immigrants).

  19. Steve Evans says:

    Greg, I’m curious at the hostility you show towards the Encyclopedia Britannica by consistently linking to the Wikipedia.

    Seth, interesting how you parody what others are saying as “I’ll believe in God as long as He agrees with me.” How is your position different, exactly, except that you have different criteria for God to agree with?

  20. Amri Brown says:

    Seth, I am surprised and mystified at your adamance and fervor at something so vague, tenuous, unknown and subjective as putting God first in your life or doing God’s will above all else.
    God expects us to be independent actors, thinkers. He even chastises us in scripture when we turn to him for every little thing.
    How do you know it is not God’s will for me to support immigration legislation that invites immigrants to this country because I believe in the opportunity to start life a new in new places. It could be God’s will for me to fight for the migrant farm workers’ rights because I believe people out to be treated equally.
    And though you’re right that obedience is expected of us even when we don’t understand, our Church and theology and prophet-god Joseph Smith were/are big advocates for coming to testimonies and understandings of things on our own. When we stop doing that, stop analyzing and thinking and even not doing because it doesn’t jive right with our spiritual selves, then we get a little stupider. And definitely more distant from a parent God who wants to grow up to be like him.

  21. Mark B: (It’d be hard to find such a place, by the way, since the Supreme Court, in Plyler v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202 (1982), held unconstitutional a Texas law that would have withheld funds from school districts for the education of undocumented alien children.

    Yeah. No kidding. That’s why I say, “Leave this up to the states.” I recognize that it’s not left up to the states, and I believe that it should be.

    Mark B Even if the law permitted it, why on earth would anyone want to live in a state that prohibited a class of its children from attending school??

    First of all, someone’s got to pay for it. I’ll be paying a some amount from Federal taxes. But the truth of the matter is that if state taxes or property taxes get too high, I’d shop for a more friendly tax venue by moving. Thus, as a practical implication of this is that states with few illegal immigrants or with few benefits are going to provide a friendlier tax venue. I’m not saying this to be mean, I’m just saying that the breadth of services that a state offers is not a sticking point for my moving there, but high taxes may well be. In my comment, I simply try to be frank about the practical implications here.

    In any case, I’ve taken about as broadly a pro-immigration stance as one can take. We’ll just have to agree to disagree about the relative importance of tax policy vs. breadth of government service when considering where to move.

    Stirling: Also, I don’t see this as a zero-sum game.

    I’m not sure I understand what your point is in saying this. I did started by saying, “I reject that assumption,” referring to the zero-sum assumption that you urge us to accept in your question. I probably should have started the next sentence so that it began, “Even so, …” to make it obvious that I was answering in spite of that.

    Stirling: Helping the Central American doesn’t mean the U.S. citizen is necessarily harmed. In our economy, it just means she will (most likely) find a different opportunity that also meets her needs.

    Hold on there, partner. Your playing a rhetorical shell-game here. You started out by urging us to, “accept for a moment the debatable [zero-sum game] assertion that immigrant labor reduces the total number of available jobs”, and then argue with the resulting conclusions by pointing out that it’s not a zero-sum game.

    That said, I completely agree.

  22. Our country now has a problem without a meaningful solution because of the vast numbers of people involved. Fust finding 10 to 20 million people in our country is no small matter. When some are fuond to somehow label them, for whatever puprpose, is itself a task of huge proportions. The same holds true of sealing our southern border let alone our northern border) Likely not possible without use of our entire military.

    Thus we are stuck with a problem we not be able to realistically solve. It sweems we have no choice but to treat the illegals in a humane way, educate their children and hope and pray they will become useful citizens that might return to Mexico someday and strengthen their own country as well as ours. Think of it this way, if the tables were reversed and we were unemployed, impoverished across the boarder to a wealthy nation like ours

  23. Our stake presidency (in Salt Lake City) has reported that in their interactions with GAs, the sentiment has been repeatedly expressed that many of the hispanics are being led here (not clear if this refers to Utah specifically or the US in general) by the Lord because we aren’t able to take the Gospel to them quickly enough. This appears to be borne out within our stake. We have a hispanic branch that will soon be made into a ward, composed entirely of members within our stake boundaries. Their numbers are growing rapidly, both by people moving in and by new baptisms. They meet in the same building as my ward and I interact with a number of them regularly. I don’t know how many are here legally, but they are overwhelmingly a hard working group of people who love the Lord and are willing to serve. Personally, I consider them a great asset to our community.

    I don’t profess to know what the best answer is for immigration, but I fully support increasing the opportunities for legal immigration from any country.

  24. Mark B. says:

    DKL: To the extent that funds for schools come from property taxes, I suspect that undocumented immigrants contribute as much as citizens or lawful permanent residents in their economic class to those taxes, whether by renting of apartments from building owners who pay taxes, or by patronizing businesses that pay taxes. But that wasn’t the point of my comment. Instead, the issue of educating children is a question of “pay me now or pay me later” and I think there’s no question that the costs associated with an uneducated population are substantially higher than the costs of educating the children in the first place.

  25. Mark B.

    You’re mistaking school with education. If you have been to any of the schools in southern california that are dominated by either illegal immigrants or children of illegal immigrants, you’ll see that there is very little education going on there.

    And not for lack of effort or funding. Three friends of mine who are teaching at schools in low income neighborhoods have stories aplenty about grants and social service monies that go towards brand new computers, supplies, innovative teaching programs and other educational tools that are wasted by the lack of any effort by the students.

    When my friends have tried to work with the parents to encourage more studious behavior, they are stonewalled.

  26. Mark B., I’m aware that’s the standard argument. I think that it’s a decent one, and I don’t disagree with it.

    I do believe that states should be allowed to make meaningful decisions about the services that they offer without interference from the federal government (the trend has been to increase this interference either by tying conditions to funding or by court decisions that homogenize american values unilaterally according to the ethical sensibilities of unaccountable jurors), and this include education.

    Let me restate my original point: If states were allowed to make their own decisions about who they offered such services to, then this would impact their expenditures and their taxation, and become a factor in whether some people chose to live there. I made the mistake of moving into a state without considering the tax patterns of the state and its communities, and don’t plan to make the same mistake again.

  27. Steve Evans says:

    Ryan, good for you to show us that illegal immigrants are lazy good-for-nothings. Why should we continue to throw money at them, if all they do is clog our schools and mow our lawns?

  28. Steve, do you mean to indicate by your sarcasm that you think we should only tolerate discussions that speak of immigrants in glowing terms?

  29. Ryan,

    My brother and sister-in-law have been teachers (include bilingual, when that was legal) in LA Unified and two other districts with high numbers of children of undocumented workers in the LA area. Their experience was the exact opposite of that of your three friends. Make no mistake, the test scores of those schools are low, but the students do try hard as a rule (at least in grades K-6, which they taught). My brother and his wife delight and telling us about many of their former elementary school students who have attended Berkeley, Stanford, UCLA and BYU. (Of course, the percentage of their students that do are much lower than the percentage in West LA or Orange County (or Sandy).)

    My wife volunteers as a 3d grade teaching assistant in an inner city class here where her cousin teaches, where almost all students are children of undocumented workers or recent migrants. My wife’s and her cousin’s experience is similar to my brother’s and sister-in-law’s, and quite different from that of your three friends.

  30. Steve,

    Now hang on, that’s not what I said.

    What I did was relate the experiences of people I know who have been consistently frustrated by the lack of interest in learning by either kids or parents in the illegal immigrant community. David H seems to have a different experience and I think it is good to hear. But although this diminishes the perceived extent of the problem, it does not negate the experience of the people I know.

    It’s absolutely not an unreasonable statement to say that just because we jam-pack a school with kids they will somehow gain an education by osmosis.

    I know it’s not very warm and fuzzy but it’s not necessarily untrue.

  31. Mark B. says:

    I’ll admit that I conflated school with education. So deport me.

    (Interesting that in Spanish, deportes is “sports.”)

    I wasn’t intending to begin a debate about the efficacy of schools, etc. etc. I would suspect, however, that the odds on a child becoming educated (and learning English) are better at a public school, however troubled, than at a home where the parents are at work all day, and where the only language spoken is Spanish.

  32. Ryan, there are schools that are “overrun” by citizens that perform as poorly as any school with a large immigrant population.

    It may be true that undocumented immigrants are at higher risk for lower performance. My guess is that if this is the case, then it’s no more true now than it ever was.

  33. NeD (#7), as evidence that not all Times&Seasons contributors are solidly anti-immigration, see Nate Oman’s Just say “No!” to the anti-immigrant GOP. My guess is that Nate’s view is more representative than Adam’s. 

  34. Oaxaca (#10),
    I own and like Photoshop, but actually use GIMP  (an an open source competitor to Photoshop) for more projects.  GIMP works on Windows/Mac/Linux, and it’s free, so I can install it at work, at home, and for my 11-year old daughter, who created the Statute of Liberty puzzle piece graphic using a standard GIMP filter and then darkening individual pieces. (Thanks, Sofia)

  35. Seth R. says:


    I’ll admit that I got a bit sidetracked, but I wasn’t really trying to “parody” anybody. I said what I thought Ann meant that I agreed with it. I was simply cautioning against the impulse to put subjective utilitarian calculations ahead of the true mission of our faith in our moral reasoning.

    To bring it back to my original point:

    What a Mormon should think about immigration may have absolutely nothing to do with whether it is “good for the USA.” Maybe the welfare of the USA does matter in what God intends (in fact, I think it does). But that’s not necessarily the case. It is entirely possible, though unlikely, that the welfare of the USA as a country is completely irrelevant to God’s plan for humanity.

    So what’s my point?

    Basically, a Mormon needs to base his or her opinion on immigration on something more than the USA’s national welfare. We are not a “USA church.” We are a world-wide religious organization and we’ve got bigger things to worry about than job-loss for Americans.

  36. Greg: I’m curious as to the hostility Seth and DKL show for “utilitarianism.”

    I have no beef with the idea that the basic purpose of moral behavior is to achieve happiness in some sense. That said, utilitarianism as a moral theory has three major flaws.

    First, there is no meaningful way to formulate the utilitarian proposition–not, at any rate, so that it’s any more meaningful than any other moral abstraction, like “moral behavior pursues the good for its own sake.” After a few very simple things (e.g., food and shelter) there’s no real agreement over what constitutes happiness. For example, the question of which sexual habits qualify as “happiness” is not one that utilitarianism is equipped to answer.

    Second, the concept of happiness is not terribly well suited for a number of moral issues. The question speed limits and airline regulation are utilitarian in the extreme–in the sense that the goal is utility, or optimizing efficiency in light of risks. But we obscure this when we try to address speed limits or airline regulation in terms of happiness. Which speed limit will lead to the greatest amount of happiness? Or which set of airline regulations will result in the greatest amount of happiness? Sure, happiness can be shoehorned into service, but this approach obscures the basic nature of the questions.

    Third, even if we stick with basic forms of happiness that everyone can agree on, utilitarianism fails to account for the moral obligations that we pick up through responsibilities to our families, friends, and associates. So that it’s moral for a parent to let his 3 children starve in order to feed the neighbor’s 4 children, because that leads to more “happiness.”

    So, as an abstract idea or mantra, utilitarianism is fine. But as a moral theory it just doesn’t cut the mustard.

  37. Ann B (#18), I favor offering “amnesty/forgiveness” and an easy path to citizenship amnesty for the large majority of our illegal immigrants (excluding, for example, those with a record of violent crime, etc.).

    Why grant people who entered the country illegally our highest civil benefit–citizenship? Or, using a religious analogy, why allow the immigrant-sinners to pass from the civil equivalent of purgatory straight into the civil equivalent of the heaven (the priesthood of citizenship)?

    For me, the answer is:
    1. I think the immigrant contribution to our society is a significant benefit, both economically and culturally (Utah seems a pretty good example of that, with its sharp increase of Latino and Brazilian immigrants over the last 10 years). It’s fair to reward that contribution with citizenship.
    2. I think the “illegality” of entering the country without a visa—to perform jobs that benefit our community—is categorically different than the illegality of many other types of law-breaking.
    3. If I don’t forgive the immigrants’ visa violations, I get so confused as to when and where I should stop insisting on punishment for my and my community’s current and past related violations. A couple of examples come to mind:
    • My church has a history of violating immigration laws in order to engage in missionary work. My country violates immigration laws in order to forcibly transfer certain unidentified individuals to certain unidentified locations to receive certain unidentified persuasive techniques.
    • On July 23rd, 1847, my ancestor Barnabus Adams entered the Salt Lake Valley, which was then a party of Mexico. I suspect he had no permission from Mexico to do that (though I’m not sure if permission was required then, and then there’s the initial issue of whether Mexico’s claim to the Ute/Shoshone lands was valid, although it was accepted by both the U.S.).
    • Through the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, accomplished by invading Mexico and occupying Mexico City, my country stole the Northern half of Mexico (California, Nevada, and Utah, plus portions of Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, and Wyoming).
    • When we Mormons first arrived in Utah, we recognized the sovereignty of the Utes over Utah Valley (south of Salt Lake City, Alpine-Provo-Spanish Fork) Utah and Utah Lake. But, two years later, in Feb. 1850, to satisfy a growing need for expansion, we attacked the same Utes with the express intent of “exterminating them” from Utah Valley. From my office in Provo, I can see several of the sites where we successfully carried out that extermination. To the SW I can see the site of the West Mountain Valentines Day massacre. To the NE I can see the opening of Rock Canyon, where Daniel Wells boxed in and killed the remaining holdouts, except for the ones who escaped by constructing snow shoes and hiking up and East over the mountains. To the North, I can see the location of Fort Utah, where we stored the heads of 30-60 Indians (reports on the number and purpose of the decapitations vary).
    • To the South, I can see where in 1865 Brigham Young convinced sixteen regional Ute leaders to sign the Treaty of Spanish Fork, in which they relinquished claims to all (?)Utah land except the Uintah Valley Reservation and agreed to move to that reservation. In exchange the U.S. Government promised to build homes, pay money, provide jobs, etc. Tragically, but not surprisingly, after negotiating the treaty the U.S. Gov. backed out and never signed it. But at the same time, for most of a decade Mormons and U.S. Gov. insisted the Utes move off their lands to comply with the Utes’ treaty obligations.
    • Last Thanksgiving, on my way back from that family trip to Puebla, Mexico, I didn’t declare that bag of roasted chapulines (I’m not sure I needed to, since they were cooked. The customs form referred generically to just “insects,” but the actual signs in the customs area mentioned “live insects”).

    So I say, let bygones be bygones. Let’s let Jesús, who lives down my street and works in construction from dawn to dark—in fact let’s include Jesús and his three kid, two of whom I’ve taught in church or school classes, and his four relatives living with him who also work construction—let’s grant them amnesty and invite them to become citizens of our great country.

    And I, I’ll try and forgive the sins of my self/church/country/forebears and sleep at night.

  38. Stirling,

    I think Senator Hayakawa adequately addressed your arguments several years ago by explaining that, with respect to the parts of the US that once were part of Mexico, “We stole it, fair and square.”

  39. Gee, and I thought that the “we stole it, fair and square” referred to the Panama Canal.

  40. Stirling: Through the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, accomplished by invading Mexico and occupying Mexico City, my country stole the Northern half of Mexico (California, Nevada, and Utah, plus portions of Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, and Wyoming).

    OK. And who did the Spanish steel it from?

    What happens is this: Over the course of thousands of years, civilizations and factions war and battle with each other over land rights until we get to the current system of international law, and nobody complains about anything except the last time things changed hands. They want that one undone, but they’re happy to let all the previous ones over the thousands of years to stand.

    Nowadays, we unquestionably assume that non-hostile squatter governments should have unquestioned sovereignty in the areas in which they are squatting. This didn’t used to be the case, and there’s no reason to think that we’re especially righteous because our foreign policy grants importance to the notion that some government was some place before any other potentially competing governments were. Conversely, there’s no reason to suppose that our forebears were sinning because they were less pragmatic about global interdependency then we are, but more pragmatic about territorial expansion.

    Moreover, the horror of war is a modern invention. Tolstoy was a pacifist, but War and Peace is pretty tame stuff compared to Full Metal Jacket. As George Will said, “War is one of the oldest activities of mankind, but one which today has fallen into disrepute.”

  41. You are right Mark, he was referring to the Panama Canal (I was on a mission in Mexico at the time of that debate). I have so often thought that the statement also applies nicely to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, that I confused the context of the original quote.

    Of course, others think Hayakawa’s trenchant analysis also applies well to our acquisition of the Southwest: “America, to paraphrase former U.S. Senator S.I. Hayakawa, stole the Southwest (California, et al) fair and square.”

  42. From a Slate article today entitled, “The Religious Left: It is fruitful and has multiplied,” Steven Waldman writes, “Lo and behold, there is a religious left. The Catholic Church is helping to lead the fight against immigration restrictions….Along with Bible-thumping liberals, the peaceniks joined and helped lead the effort to derail strict immigration reform.”
    Waldman categorizes the religious left as bible-thumping liberals (liberal evangelicals), pious peaceniks (white liberal Protestants, Catholics, Reform Jews, and an occasional Buddhist), ethnic churchgoers (African-Americans, Hispanics, and Muslims), conflicted Catholics, and religious feminists.
    Using his terminology, I guess I’m all of pious peacenik, conflicted Mormon, religious feminist, and anxious for amnesty for aliens.  This cartoon is also on the Slate site. immigration cartoon

  43. Seth R. says:


    American citizenship = entrance into Celestial Kingdom

    Uh huh. Right …

  44. Keeping in mind the categorizations from #42, today’s Washington Post has an article, “Letter on Immigration Deepens Split Among Evangelicals,” on how faith communities are responding to the immigration issue.
    this article states that, “More than 50 evangelical Christian leaders and organizations voiced their support yesterday for an immigration bill that would allow illegal immigrants to become U.S. citizens without returning to their native countries….But most of the nation’s large, politically influential evangelical organizations either back rival legislation that focuses on border enforcement and the deportation of illegal immigrants, or have been silent on the issue. Hispanic evangelical leaders said yesterday that they have received support from Roman Catholic, Jewish and Muslim groups, but have been bitterly disappointed by the response of most of their fellow evangelicals, both white and black.
    …Polls show that about two-thirds of white evangelicals consider new immigrants a burden on society, compared with about half of all Americans who hold that view.”

  45. Seth (#43 commenting on #37), I hope I don’t mean sound rude. RU analogy-challenged, or do you mean to suggest there is a better civil parallel for heaven?
    Citizenship=highest civil benefits, you can vote, serve on jury, receive a U.S. passport, work in any job, move without restriction, you have certain U.S. consulate protections in foreign countries, etc.

    Categories of non-citizens with increasingly lower levels of civil benefits: permanent resident (has permission to work any job), temporary resident (permission to work in any job or a specific job, depending on your visa), student visa holder (permission to work on campus only) tourist or other visa holder without permission to work, illegal immigrant with no permission to work, etc.

  46. Coltakashi says:

    I scanned through the comments but did not see anyone referring to the Book of Mormon and its message that the Americas really do belong to the descendants of the more ancient immigrants, like Lehi and Mulek and their parties. While the founding of the US and its Constitution were explicitly divinely influenced events, we can hardly make any claim of divine sanction for other US government actions, such as the imprisonment without trial, and without a crime, of 100,000 Japanese-Americans during World War II. The immigration laws that limit the number of legal alien workers are not based on any divine decree, but are simply based on arbitrary numbers that were agreed to in a congressional committee. There was no scientific analysis addressing the costs versus benefits of immigration, or of the impacts of various levels of immigration of people from various language groups and socioeconomic levels. Violating the immigration laws (meaning entry without a visa) is very much a crime that is malum prohibitum rather than malum in se. America has not been willing to put a lot of money and blood into enforcing the arbitrary limits because everyone knows they are arbitrary. They were not ordained by God, and changing them is not a sin.

    The current situation actually works to the advantage of criminals who smuggle people and goods across the border, and to the advantage of employers who exploit the illegal status of workers who cannot openly complain about mistreatment. In broad swaths of the US (such as Marin County, California, where I used to live), richer people delight in the savings that come to them from being able to have illegals do their yardwork and babysit their kids. Changing the system to allow a moderated amount of additional temporary worker immigration will hurt the wallets of all these groups.

    Of course, we need to have real border controls, to stop the willy-nilly immigration of criminals from outside the US, as well as potential terrorists. Providing a legal method of entrance for workers who are needed will reduce the burden of the Border Patrol, and allow them to concentrate on real illegal border crossing.

    At the same time, those who complain about the cultural impact of poor immigrants should be supportive of outsourcing some lower paying jobs to Mexico and other poor nations. They can live well in their native countries on wages that are survival level in the US.

    At the lowest level of the jobs that illegals do on farms, I just cannot picture a lot of inner city teenagers wanting to take those jobs on, even if they paid twice as much. Anyone in the US who has even basic skills can earn more than a farm worker for far less effort. The reason that there is unemployment among American natives is an unwillingness to work that hard for that little pay.

    Most illegal workers are not evil per se. We need to remember that they are precisely the people to whom the Book of Mormon promises are made, and that when it talks about the fulfillment of the prophecies of Isaiah that the Gentiles will be their nursing fathers and mothers, we should be looking for ways to fulfill that injunction.

  47. Amri Brown says:

    It turns Miller Lite Beer has given a great deal of money to James Sensenbrenner (WI-R)the author of the bill to kick undocumented, illegal immigrants back to their countries. I’m going to boycott. Who’s with me?

  48. Miller Light ain’t the kind of beer that you need an extra good reason to avoid. I mean, I wouldn’t drink the stuff if it were free (if I drank beer, that is).

    But a boycott? Sure. That sounds great. I get to do the same thing I’d do anyway, only now I get to feel righteous!

  49. Amri Brown says:

    We should have a rally. Make signs Mormons against Miller Lite. I think they’d feel the heat.

  50. LOL. That’s outstanding.

  51. Why don’t we argue for completely open borders? No INS (or its successor organization) at all. If you get here you can stay here.

    If you cannot accept that then where do you draw the line?

  52. JoshuaM says:

    I have often found myself wondering why we so many LDS are opposed to “illegal” immigration. Apart from the obvious; our own ancestors immigration to the US, it seems that the very concept of borders and frankly nationalism is not some divine system or something that we should be so quick to support. Is it not our duty to reach out to those less fortunate, free the captives, in essence live the gospel of Christ? It seems that the concerns over immigration are mainly from xenophobic or racist views. Nationalism has been the bane of most of the past century. As LDS we have a church composed of members throughout the world. For most of us we speak of this in pride. For many we have even lived among these people, yet it all too often seems that while we are glad to have a worldwide faith, we want to make sure people stay put. Heaven forbid they might actually want to live next door to me. Our allegiance is not to the US, not to any government.

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