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 choices 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.
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
“…Los llamados ilegales
que no tienen documentos
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.”