The LDS Church issued a new statement today regarding immigration policy in the United States. This is not a new topic, of course. However, the statement from the Newsroom this morning is a little bit different from past missives, I think. The full text of the statement can be found here, but here are a few of the main passages, along with my thoughts on them.
- “As a matter of policy, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints discourages its members from entering any country without legal documentation, and from deliberately overstaying legal travel visas.”
- “The history of mass expulsion or mistreatment of individuals or families is cause for concern especially where race, culture, or religion are involved. This should give pause to any policy that contemplates targeting any one group, particularly if that group comes mostly from one heritage.”
- “As those on all sides of the immigration debate in the United States have noted, this issue is one that must ultimately be resolved by the federal government. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is concerned that any state legislation that only contains enforcement provisions is likely to fall short of the high moral standard of treating each other as children of God.”
- “The Church supports an approach where undocumented immigrants are allowed to square themselves with the law and continue to work without this necessarily leading to citizenship.”
Given past statements, and many of the responses made by individuals who would prefer more protection from undocumented workers, I think this is an important clause. Here at BCC, we have seen many individuals question the Church’s commitment to the rule of law in this policy arena. I think that questioning is misguided and wrong, and I see this particular clause as a needed clarification that the Church does not only NOT encourage illegal immigration, but actually discourages it. While I personally prefer completely open borders, I accept this stance as important for the Church and its diverse membership.
There is a tendency among the more politically liberal to see this as primarily a racial issue–that it’s all about keeping those from South of the border out, and that if the immigrants were all white, educated folk from Canada we wouldn’t have nearly the stress or anxiety that we see. Similarly, there is a tendency among the more politically conservative to deny that this is a racially-oriented policy debate, and insist that the problem exists because people, regardless of ethnicity or origin, are breaking a law. Certainly, exceptions from both groups exist, and I don’t want to pigeon-hole anyone or put words in anyone’s mouth. Regardless, this section of the Church’s statement clearly throws a bone in the direction of those who see racial underpinnings to certain pieces of legislation and policy suggestions.
This paragraph is interesting for a couple of reasons. First, the clarity and specificity of it is just striking to me for a statement from the LDS Church. It explicitly rejects the states-rights mentality that is very prevalent among many LDS people. I tend to favor states-rights myself, and am surprised to see it so specifically denounced in this area. Fortunately for me, this happens to be one of the policies where I also reject the states-rights approach. Secondly (and relatedly), the rejection of a states-rights approach is interesting because it stands in contrast from the Church’s previous support of states-rights approaches to another hotly contested policy issue–that of marriage. There are certainly differences and similarities between these two policies, but it will be interesting to see if the appeal to a Federal law (and open rejection of a state-by-state approach) is something that will be seen more in the future.
Like the previous paragraph, I find this statement to be interesting primarily because of the directness of it. There is no wiggle room here–there is no way to say that “This was only Bishop Burton’s personal view,” or that “They’re just saying we should treat people with kindness or respect.” This is a plainly-worded and indisputable statement that the LDS Church’s leadership wants a solution that allows people to stay in their jobs, stay in their homes, stay with their families, and stay in their communities, regardless of how they got there in the first place.
As an additional (and probably needed) afterthought, the Newsroom issued this new tidbit to provide additional clarification for Ward/Stake leaders concerning the calling of undocumented workers to serve in their congregations, as well as a piece of counsel for every member of the Church:
“The First Presidency has for many years taught that undocumented status should not by itself prevent an otherwise worthy Church member from entering the temple or being ordained to the priesthood. Bishops are in the best position to make appropriate judgments as to Church privileges. Meanwhile, Church members should avoid making judgments about fellow members in their congregations.”